World No. 1 Serena Williams’ march toward, or over, history continued on Saturday at Roland Garros when she defeated No. 13 seed Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2 in the French Open women’s final.
Stoic throughout the match after not practicing the day before due to flu-like symptoms, the outcome seemed inevitable after the American broke early in each set, conserving her energy by looking to end rallies with big groundstrokes and generally overpowering the Czech. But Safarova broke back for 2-4 in the second, running off four games in a row for a 5-4 lead.
Serena held then broke for 6-5, but Safarova was not done, breaking to force a second-set tiebreak and playing inspired tennis for force a third. The Czech broke to start the third to stunned silence from the French crowd who was still deciding its allegiance. Williams broke back for 2-all, pumping herself up with f-bombs (with television commentators apologizing for on her behalf) or screaming “What are you doing!” when missing shots.
Holding for 3-2, Serena receive a warning from the chair umpire for her potty mouth, but it was worth it to the American who broke for a 4-2 lead, then breaking in the final game to run out the win 6-2.
At the trophy presentation Serena thanked her support crew, the tournament and the fans in fluent French, congratulating Safarova as well.
“I would just like to say thanks again to everyone here,” she then said in English. “My whole box, my dad I love you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you, thank you guys.”
The 33-year-old American is now the third player to win 20 Slams after Margaret Court’s 24 and Steffi Graf’s 22, and is the first player to win three straight Slams since — well, herself — back in 2002-03. It was her third singles title at Roland Garros.
Serena has won her last 21 Grand Slam matches and this title gave her a third Career Slam and a 67th WTA title, tying her with Billie Jean King.
She is also an amazing 20-4 in Grand Slam finals with a perfect 8-0 mark in 3-setters.
Afterwards in an on-court interview Serena in a moment of honesty admitted, “I choked…She started coming back and playing like Lucie Safarova does…finally I stopped thinking so much.”
In four of her six matches leading to the final, Williams was forced to come back from a set down, while Safarova did not drop a set en route to the final — but amazingly Safarova logged more court time than the American in that six-match span. The 28-year-old Safarova dispensed on former Roland Garros champs Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic en route to the final.
Safarova fell to 0-9 career against Williams, and was appearing in her first career Grand Slam final. Safarova is projected to career to a career-high No. 7 on the WTA Rankings.
“It’s been a great two weeks here for me,” Safarova said. “I have so many emotions and beautiful wins. Serena is a great fighter and congratulations.”
On Friday Serena spoke to the media regarding her illness and condition going into the final.
“I started to feel unwell around the third or fourth round and I felt really terrible during the semis against Timea,” she said. “I’m actually not sure how I got through the match and when it was over I just kind of collapsed. I couldn’t move. I saw the tournament doctor on site and since I came home I’ve been resting — I just could not practice today. I think I have some kind of flu, which makes it tough, because it’s just a matter of resting and keeping hydrated — there’s not much else I can do. I’ve felt really cold so I’m just fighting that, trying to sweat it out.”
Rest and fluids were apparently what the doctor ordered for the American.
“For the second time, she will be going for the ‘Serena Slam,’ years apart,” said U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez of a possible fourth Slam in a row for Williams at Wimbledon this year. “So it’s pretty impressive that she has been able to keep up the level, the passion. I think she’s better now than when she won the ‘Serena Slam.’ She can pull it off.”
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