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Sharapova completes the career Grand Slam; Routs Errani to win French Open

PARIS -- The woman in black would not be denied. Victory and a place in the history books lay at the end of her racket, which she wielded like a deadly weapon.

With unerring aim, Maria Sharapova of Russia won the French Open on Saturday, capturing her first title on the crushed red clay and picking up the only major trophy lacking in her collection. Sharapova, 25, defeated Italy's Sara Errani, 6-3, 6-2, in a one-sided match on a blustery Paris afternoon.

The Russian's fourth major title made her the sixth female tennis player in the Open era to achieve a career Grand Slam, and she joins Serena Williams as the only other active woman currently on tour who can make the same boast. Sharapova has won each of the four majors once -- Wimbledon in 2004, the U.S. Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008 and now the French.

"It's surreal. It's the most unique moment I've experienced in my career," said Sharapova, adding that it even eclipsed her unexpected victory at Wimbledon over Williams as a 17-year-old. "This was extremely special, and even more so."

She will rise from No. 2 to the top of the women's rankings when they are released next week.

Her destruction of Errani, a surprise finalist who was seeded No. 21, was as brutal as it was swift. In 89 minutes, Sharapova compiled 37 winners, enough by themselves to win nine of her 12 games. She fired so many shots onto the sidelines that the puffs of chalk they sent up might as well have been smoke.

Errani, just 10 days younger than her opponent but 9 1/2 inches shorter, was unable to impose her will either through strength or guile, both of which she'd exhibited in her previous matches despite her 5-foot-4 stature.

To reach her first Grand Slam final, Errani took out big servers and heavy hitters such as Samantha Stosur and Angelique Kerber with aggressive, cleverly placed groundstrokes that belied her self-description as a timid person by nature.

But in Saturday's contest to see who could establish herself as puppet master and yank the other woman around the court, Errani was up against an opponent on a roll.

Sharapova raced to a 4-0 lead in less than 15 minutes. Led by a strong serve, which she has worked hard to make consistent, the long-legged Russian rarely allowed rallies to extend past two or three strokes.

Her fearless play off both wings was epitomized by the game at 4-2 in which she smacked a backhand cross-court winner, an unreturnable forehand in the corner and then another winning backhand down the line in rapid succession. Errani gasped at the effort to defend against the relentless attack; many in the capacity crowd gasped in admiration at Sharapova's shots, sometimes loudly enough to drown out the high-decibel grunts of both women.

"With this [kind of] player, if you give her some games like this in the beginning, of course they are more relaxed," said Errani, who confessed to feeling some nerves on such a big, and novel, occasion. "I couldn't play long points like I want to play."

In the second set, she showed more spirit and savvy, though she dug herself into a hole from the outset.

But it came too late. A netted backhand from the Italian on match point sent Sharapova onto her knees on the rust-colored dirt, her hands clasped to her face for several seconds before she flung them outward in celebration.


Looking for Novak slam

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has won 27 matches in a row at Grand Slam tournaments.

If he can make that 28 by beating Rafael Nadal in today's French Open final, Djokovic will earn a fourth consecutive major title, something no man has accomplished since Rod Laver in 1969 (9 a.m., Ch. 2).