Twenty-four cm in height, $17 million in prize money and a universe of celebrity status separate Maria Sharapova from Sara Errani, but these two worlds will collide in the French Open final on Saturday.
The tall and elegant Sharapova purred like a Rolls Royce as she trampled Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-3 to exact a modicum of payback after the Czech had beaten her in the Wimbledon final last year.
Waiting for her there is the petite Sara Errani, who despite her slender frame, masterminded semi-final success over the heavy-hitting Sam Stosur with a gameplan forged of guile and guts.
Whether or not a cerebral approach, which resulted in a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 victory, will be enough to upset the last remaining superstar in the women's game remains to be seen.Back to the top
With the Williams sisters on the wane, Justine Henin retired and Kim Clijsters set to follow after the US Open, Sharapova is the big box-office attraction.
Her victory over Kvitova underlined her status by returning her to the pinnacle of the rankings, whilst in the process heightening the sense that Sharapova and Errani come from opposite ends of the tennis spectrum.
“It’s a long road back; it’s a long process,” said Sharapova, who was ranked 126 three
years ago following a shoulder surgery. “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 it would be a moment like that for you again.”
Errani, meanwhile, is enjoying her first act on tennis’ big stage.
“Maybe my problem always was that I couldn’t ... win with the strong players,” said Errani on Thursday. “But now I beat three in a row. I’m in the final in a Grand Slam. So I have to maybe try to think a bit different.”
Entering Roland Garros, Errani was 0-28 against opponents in the top 10.
Now, she has back-to-back wins against No. 10 Angelique Kerber and No. 6 Stosur, along with win over past French Open champions Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova.