The Russian last held the top spot four years ago, having already won three Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. But shoulder surgery put her out of the sport for 10 months when her ranking slumped to 126 in the world.
It has been a tough road back for the 25-year-old golden girl of the sport. But claycourt titles in Stuttgart and Rome in the run-up to Paris hinted that she was approaching something like her best again. “I was in a position a few years ago where I didn’t quite know if I would ever be here again on this stage playing professionally,” said Sharapova.
“It’s a long road back. It’s a lot of days of frustration and uncertainty not knowing if you’ll ever get there, not knowing how much you want it, not knowing whether it would be a moment like that for you again. “So there’s definitely a lot of tough things you have to go through to get to this point, but it’s all really worth it.
“I have played tennis since I was four years old. I committed myself to this sport. I’ve always loved what I did. When it was taken away from me for a while, that’s when I realised how grateful I was and how lucky I was to be playing it.” On Thursday, Sharapova, twice a semi-finalist in Paris in 2007 and 2011, eased past Kvitova 6-3, 6-3 and will tackle Italian 21st seed Sara Errani in today’s final, the first meeting between the two players.