Back on top, Sharapova into final vs. Errani

Posted: June 08, 2012

PARIS - Wind blew in her face, kicking up flecks of clay, and Maria Sharapova stood at the baseline, knowing she needed one more point to reach her first French Open final and return to No. 1 in the rankings.

She rotated her right shoulder, the one surgically repaired 31/2 years ago, and served a fault.

Her next try found the mark: a second-serve ace at 104 m.p.h. that landed in a corner. It was a fitting way to close out a 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 4-seeded Petra Kvitova in the semifinals at Roland Garros on Thursday, a fitting way to announce that Sharapova is once again at the height of her powers and at the top of her sport.

"It's a long road back - it's a long process," Sharapova said at her news conference, the WTA's glass vase signifying her No. 1 status sitting inches away. "It's a lot of days of frustration and uncertainty, not knowing if you'll ever get there, not knowing how much you want it, not knowing whether [there] would be a moment like that for you again. . . . But when you get here, and you look back at the things that you did, and the work that you put in, and the toughest days that you can remember, it's all really worth it."

On Saturday, the second-seeded Russian will face 21st-seeded Sara Errani for the title. The French Open is the only major tournament Sharapova hasn't won - she can become the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam.

Playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal, the diminutive Errani beat reigning U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur, 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.

It's been quite a two weeks for Errani, who will play in the women's doubles final Friday with Roberta Vinci against Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova.

Entering this tournament, Errani was 0-28 against women ranked in the top 10. But she beat No. 10 Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals, then No. 6 Stosur.

In the men's semifinals Friday, No. 1 Novak Djokovic faces No. 3 Roger Federer, and No. 2 Rafael Nadal plays No. 6 David Ferrer.

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