Five things to know about the French Open final
PARIS -- Picking No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova to reach the French Open final was probably one of the surest pre-tournament tracks to take. But for those who placed a friendly wager on Sara Errani, the 21st seed, to be one of the final women standing, take a big, deep bow.
Saturday's French Open final will be a series of serious contrasts leading to one result: Errani or Sharapova will win her first singles title at Roland Garros. Regardless of who wins, Sharapova will take over as the No. 1 player in the world when the rankings are released Monday.
Here are five things you need to know about the French Open women's final:
1. Sharapova is sharp. She has been playing fine-tuned tennis for nearly two weeks in Paris while running through her opponents with ease. She dropped only one set in seven matches, spending a mere 8 hours, 30 minutes on court. Sharapova's serve has been strong, her return game is devastatingly aggressive, and she has stayed in control.
2. Errani is a fighter. She is only 5-foot-5, making her tiny in the world of tennis, but don't mistake small stature for a small game. Errani can hit with pace and comes with a nice array of slices and drop shots to force her bigger opponents out of their comfort zones. Sharapova is 6-foot-2, and Errani will need to stop her wingspan from hurting her. Errani also has spent more time on court than Sharapova in two ways: she has played close to 11 hours of singles, and won the doubles tournament on Friday with Italian countrywoman and close friend Roberta Vinci. Her legs could be a little tired for the singles final.
3. Sharapova's career slam is oh-so-close. She is on the verge of becoming the 10th woman to win all four Grand Slams. Sharapova's legacy is already secure, but having a complete set of slams in her trophy case would be a huge coup. Winning a Grand Slam tournament will be even sweeter this time, as she had to come back from career-threatening shoulder surgery to do it.
4. Size isn't everything -- speed is. Errani has the advantage of being the better mover on clay, partially because she is Italian and grew up on the stuff, but also because of a natural grace. Sharapova is bigger and a little stiffer, but she has shown nice improvement in her movement in 2012. Errani needs to keep Sharapova moving and use her speed as a defensive weapon.
5. Experience counts, but so does heart. Sharapova is going to be the heavy favorite because of her experience, rank and game. But she has melted down in Grand Slam finals, most recently at Wimbledon in 2011 against Petra Kvitova. If Errani can control her nerves and realize that she has nothing to lose, she could pull off a huge underdog win. And Sharapova isn't the only one chasing history at Roland Garros. If Errani takes the singles title, on top of the doubles crown, she will be only the seventh woman to win both the singles and doubles events at the French Open joining Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Virginia Ruzici, Martina Navratilova and Mary Pierce.