Defending champion Maria Sharapova and former Grand Slam champion Sam Stosur met for the 17th time in the third round of Roland Garros. Sharapova led the head to head fourteen to two, but many suspected an upset. The match could have been a potentially tough one for the second seed, but she came through unscathed. Despite struggling with a cold and cough so far in the tournament, Maria didn't let that stop her taking care of business in Paris. It wasn't the cleanest match; there were many exchanges of breaks and some messy unforced errors. Sharapova was not at her best, but she did everything she could, and it was enough, winning the match 6-3, 6-4.
The match took some time to start rolling. The first few games were mediocre from both players, but each did just enough to hold serve. Maria started to struggle with a consistent ball toss and had some weaker serves, allowing Stosur to advance up the court and create winners. The Australian broke to love and led 2-1 in the first set. However, defending champion Sharapova reacted quickly, picking up her intensity to stretch Stosur. A few unforced errors from Stosur allowed Maria to break back immediately, leveling the score at 2-2. Both were doing everything they could to hang on to a lead. Sharapova’s expertise in the match was resorting the equilibrium, Stosur was playing aggressively, particularly towards the start of the match, but Maria knew how to handle it. She dictated play inside the court with some fantastic movement to break, but a huge dip in level making three double faults in a row gave Stosur the break back. Clearly bothered by her poor previous game, Sharapova was determined to redeem herself, and she did so with some gutsy shots whenever Stosur's landed short. She eventually took the set 6-3 after a very messy first set. Amongst the errors from Stosur, her play was very powerful, but she just couldn't do enough to trouble Maria.
It wasn’t the finest set of tennis from either former Grand Slam champion, the inconsistency allowed neither Stosur or Sharapova to gain any momentum. Nonetheless, Maria was sharp mentally, and that’s what gave her the upper hand. In the second set it was a mental battle with some very tight games, but Sharapova prevailed. Stosur was consistently giving Maria too much time to get to the ball, she had the potential to fire shots around the court, but her shot selection didn’t match her aggression. More errors crept into Stosur’s game, which allowed Maria to step up to the mark and raise her intensity even more when she needed to. Once Sharapova broke in the second set, it was a fairly quick end to the match. She served it out 6-3, 6-4 and breathed a sigh of relief. Despite her average performance and fight with illness, she had reached the fourth round. The defending champion was emotional while she celebrated her victory.
It definitely wasn’t her best performance, but what counts is her determination to overcome that, which was very impressive today. Stosur had moments of brilliance, but ultimately, her winners were entangled with errors, not allowing her to gain the upper hand. Stosur won 59 points as opposed to Sharapova's 70. The defending champion will be relieved to have come through her match today, but if she wants a shot at winning the championship once more, she will have to raise her level.