Sun, 10 Jun 2012 09:11:58 GMT
In Pics: Sharapova’s maiden French Open title

In Pics: Sharapova’s maiden French Open title

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Maria Sharapova was the toast of Paris on Saturday, after a stunning performance in the final, where she defeated giant-killer Sara Errani. Take a look at some of the most stunning images from the final

Paris: Sidelined in 2008 by a right shoulder that needed surgery, putting her tennis future suddenly in doubt, Maria Sharapova decided to use the free time to study a new language, the one spoken at the only Grand Slam tournament she had yet to win.

"I found a French school close to my house," she recalled, "and I did private lessons every single day for three months."

Sharapova cut short those classes when it was time to begin the slow, painful rehab process and get her shoulder back in shape. About 3½ years later, on Saturday at Roland Garros, Sharapova put all of that hard work to good use on the most important clay court there is -- and even trotted out a little French during the victory speech she often wondered if she'd ever get a chance to deliver.

Whipping big serves with that rebuilt shoulder, putting forehands and backhands right on lines, and even moving well on the red surface she once worried made her look like a "cow on ice," Sharapova beat surprise finalist Sara Errani of Italy 6-3, 6-2 to win her first French Open title and become the 10th woman with a career Grand Slam.

"It's a wonderful moment in my career," the 25-year-old Sharapova told the crowd in French, before switching to English to add: "I'm really speechless. It's been such a journey for me to get to this stage."

Errani, for her part, never paid attention to those who said a 5-foot-4½ woman couldn't possibly compete against the very best in tennis. Posing at the net before the match, the 6-foot-2 Sharapova towered over her opponent -- then was head-and-shoulders above Errani when play began, too.

"I started badly, and that's what bothers me the most," said the 21st-seeded Errani, who admitted she was overcome by nerves at the outset. "You can't do that against players like her, because she was only going to get better once she loosened up."

Born 10 days apart in April 1987, both trained as kids at Nick Bollettieri's academy in Florida (Errani says she lost badly in their only head-to-head match there; Sharapova says she has no recollection). Both were playing in the French Open final for the first time.

The similarities end there, though. Sharapova was playing in her seventh Grand Slam singles final; Errani in her first, although she did team with Roberta Vinci to win the women's doubles title Friday. Errani was 19-18 for her career in major tournaments before these wonderful two weeks; Sharapova was 122-32.

Source: AP