First of all, I have to say just how impressive Errani has been this entire tournament, but in her semifinal match in particular. She really never let Stosur take advantage of her power and played great defense, taking Stosur out of her comfort zone and forcing her to go for even more than she usually does.
Errani’s Keys to Victory:
1. Don’t go for too much- Errani reminds me a lot of David Ferrer in the men’s game. She retrieves very well and really frustrates her opponents with good, deep responses to just about everything. She keeps the ball in play, waits for her openings, and will aim for the corners from either her forehand or backhand when she sees an opportunity. That’s her game. No matter what happens in this match, she can’t get taken out of that. She needs to keep playing her defense and can’t start going for winners that she can’t hit, even if she starts losing the match.
2. Keep the first serve in- Part of the reason Errani didn’t have much trouble on her own serve against Stosur (she certainly had less trouble than expected) was her ridiculously high first-serve percentage. She only missed 13 first serves all match. This allowed her to start a lot of rallies on her own terms and keep them in positions from which Stosur couldn’t hit winner. She’s playing another player with a good return and a strong baseline game, so keeping the balls deep and keeping the rallies on her own terms will be important.
3. Keep the ball deep- This is partially connected to the last key, but she really can’t let Sharapova dictate the rallies. The best way for her to do that is to keep the ball deep and not let Sharapova hit her massive groundstrokes from close to the baseline. Errani is great at retrieving a lot of balls, but you can bet that Sharapova will take anything short and put it away.
4. Play loose- One of the most impressive things about Errani’s semifinal was that she wasn’t cowed at all by the occasion. She was against a much higher-ranked player, the deepest she’d ever been in a Slam, and she just played her game. She never really tightened up or showed nerves. A Grand Slam final is a much bigger and more pressure-filled occasion, but if Errani wants to win she has to play her own solid match throughout.
Sharapova’s Keys to Victory:
1. Ignore the pressure- Sharapova will be World #1 again with her win in the semifinals. She is one match away from the career Grand Slam. She has lost her last two Slam finals and, honestly, hasn’t been so competitive in them. She can’t let all of that get to her though. She is known for never really tightening up, but if she does she will lose a lot of points very quickly against a scrappy player like Errani.
2. Serve well- It’s a constant refrain with Sharapova. She has serious serving issues but has the baseline game to make up for it. But she can’t afford to give away too many free points with double faults or even let Errani force her back in the rallies by starting them off with second serves. Her serve is constantly improving, and she’s no longer serving double-digit double faults just about every match, but Sharapova really needs to be able to make her serve a consistent weapon again.
3. Don’t get flustered- Errani has the type of game that can really annoy opposing players. Errani will make you hit a lot of extra balls. A winner against most players turns into just a very good rally shot against Errani. Sharapova can’t start going for too much and has to just keep hitting her shots. It’s okay if the second huge groundstroke is the winner instead of the first. If she starts going for too many outright winners that she can’t really hit, she will lose this match the same way that Stosur lost hers.
This match will be affected by the weather. Mild or normal conditions will greatly benefit Sharapova. If it’s windy or wet it will hurt Sharapova’s ability to hit winners and big groundstrokes and will really help Errani run down more balls. Either way, Sharapova is the more consistent player and the one with the better game. And either way, Errani is in the midst of a career-defining run and has absolutely nothing to lose in this match.
Errani in 3