Maria Sharapova, former tennis world no. 1 and a 3-time Grand Slam Champion, sought her maiden French Open title in 2011. The Russian tennis star, who combined a powerful serve with a strong two handed backhand, and a good forehand en route to 2004 Wimbledon, 2006 US Open, and 2008 Australian Open was looking to overcome injuries that have derailed her career the last few years. Maria was sidelined with a right shoulder injury that required extensive surgical repair. Upon return from that injury, her serve had departed her, the number of double faults increased, and some wondered whether or not she would reach the pinnacle of tennis again.
This year, Sharapova played like her former self, winning titles, and competing deeper into tournaments. This French Open, she loomed as a dark horse, with Kim Clijsters and defending champion Francesca Schiavone being overwhelming favorites. The number 1 seed Wozniacki was upset, as was the number 2 seed Kim Clijsters. That left Sharapova’s path to the French Open final wide open.
Beating China’s Li Na was going to be challenging, but nothing Maria could not overcome. However, on this day, Li Na had other plans. She combined spectacular strokes off both wings- backhand & forehand- to pull off what would be deemed an upset despite having a higher ranking than Sharapova. Looking at the stat sheet, those double faults Sharapova had much of last year crept into this game, and she could never really find her footing. Li Na did a good job on defense and mixing it up.
Just when it looked like Sharapova would finally break through at the red clay of Roland Garros, the opportunity was shut down by an opponent who was better. So Sharapova is left to wait another year to complete the career slam. With some tweaks in her serve, she should be able to eventually win a French Open title.