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Sharapova, Stosur start favourites

Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros 2012.
by Dan Imhoff
Thursday 7 June 2012

On the back of delivering a ruthless quarter-final disposal and a tour-leading 17 wins from 18 matches on la terre battue this year, world No.2 Maria Sharapova is a firm favourite to complete a career Grand Slam at Roland Garros in two days’ time.

Two days at the business end of a Grand Slam, though, is a long time and the Russian – never one to get ahead of herself – knows full well she is still two big matches from glory with a pair of reigning Grand Slam champions and one of the season’s biggest improvers in her way.

(6) Samantha Stosur (AUS) v Sara Errani (ITA)

The day’s first women’s singles semi-final pits the heavy-spinning, heavy-hitting Australian Samantha Stosur against a second pocket rocket in as many matches. Having accounted for feisty 5ft 3in Slovak Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter-finals, Stosur – in her third French Open semi-final in three years – will carry a 5-0 head-to-head record into her match against the 5ft 4in Italian Sara Errani.

At the quarter-final stage, Stosur was the only one of the eight to have played in a Roland Garros final before, back in 2010 where she cleaned up big names Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic en route.

It took Errani’s Fed Cup teammate Francesca Schiavone to end Stosur’s run, so expect more of the same tactics from the speedy, consistent Bologna native.

Errani, whose quarter-final win over Angelique Kerber was her first over a Top 10 player in 29 attempts, faces a tough ask should Stosur get off to a flyer. In 47 matches where she has taken the opening set, the sixth seed has never lost a Grand Slam singles match.

(2) Maria Sharapova (RUS) v (4) Petra Kvitova (CZE)

For the second time this year Maria Sharapova finds herself one Grand Slam match away from the No.1 ranking. In Melbourne, had the Russian beaten Victoria Azarenka in the final she would have returned to the top spot. She managed just three games. This time around she will hope for a better showing against the tournament’s fourth seed, Petra Kvitova. Reclaiming top spot is clearly not Sharapova’s overriding goal at Roland Garros though. It is the last of the four majors to elude her and two more victories would complete her career Grand Slam.

Both players have looked shaky in three-set tussles during the tournament – Sharapova in the fourth round, Kvitova in both the third round and in her quarter-final against unseeded Kazakh qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova.

At the semi-final stage it is Sharapova who looks the sharper of the two and she holds a 3-2 head-to-head record against the Czech Republic's Wimbledon champion, including both meetings this season – a three-set semi-final at the Australian Open and in the semi-finals at Stuttgart on clay.

Kvitova came from 2-4 down in the third set to survive her quarter-final and will have to lift her game against the No.2 seed, who looked on song throughout against heavy-hitting Estonian Kaia Kanepi in their quarter-final.

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