Saturday, June 9, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again?

Not long ago, I wondered if Maria Sharapova was past her prime at the tender age of 24.

Well, she has observed a birthday since I wrote that — so she is now 25 — and today she won the women's singles title at the French Open for the first time — so she is now one of a handful of pro players to win a career Grand Slam.

I think I may have been a bit hasty in speculating about whether she was over the hill.

Her victory over Sara Errani, who secured a spot in the world's Top 10 rankings with her performance in Paris, showed that concerns about the lingering effects of her shoulder injury were baseless.

She undoubtedly will go to Wimbledon as one of the favorites.

But her victory in Paris gave her a career Grand Slam — at least one singles title in all four Grand Slam tournaments — and should have erased all doubt.

Errani, also 25, is an up–and–comer. She and Roberta Vinci won the women's doubles title, and she defeated the 2008 and 2009 French Open winners en route to today's match.

Before the match, I heard Errani described as petite. Presumably, that was a reference to her height. At 5–foot–5, she is a few inches shorter than just about everyone she faces, and the height difference is even more pronounced when she stands next to Sharapova, who is nine inches taller.

But Errani is also muscular, and that is something I definitely do not associate with the term petite. I've always thought of petite as being synonymous with dainty — which it is, according to my thesaurus, but it is also listed as synonymous with small.

(I would argue the point to an extent. I have known women who were nearly as tall as Sharapova whom I would characterize as dainty. In fact, before I saw her play, I would have regarded Sharapova herself as dainty. But that is one thing she is not, at least not on the tennis court.)

As I watched Errani futilely, gamely trying to overcome Sharapova, I realized that, barring something completely unexpected, Errani will become a familiar face in tournament finals.

The final score was lopsided. The match was not.

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