A day after missing practice because of flu, Serena Williams beat Lucie Safarova for the French Open title, her 20th major singles tennis victory.
The top-ranked American defeated the 13th-seeded Czech, 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2 on the main Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros in Paris. It’s the third French Open title for the 33-year-old Williams, who also won in 2002 and 2013.
Williams tied Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert with 18 majors at the U.S. Open, and then added her 19th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Today’s win means she’s now two shy of Steffi Graf’s haul of 22 grand slams singles titles, the most in the Open era.
After almost hitting her opponent in the warm-up with a practice serve, Williams held her first two service games with an ace. After nailing a winner off a 127 kilometers-an-hour second-serve to set up break point, Williams ripped a forehand return to go up 3-1, and won the set with a big serve.
She was leading 4-1, 40-15, in the second set, when Williams suddenly lost concentration.
With Safarova moving her around the court more, she started to make mistakes and lost four games in a row, including two on a double fault. Serving to stay in the set at 5-4 down, Williams screamed and swore before holding. Williams was two points away from winning the match at 6-5, 30-15 when Safarova rallied back to break with two baseline winners that landed on the line. A forehand error handed Safarova four set points in the tiebreak, which she took as Williams netted a forehand return.
Williams had a difficult path to the championship match, struggling all week with flu and skipping both her practice and a pre-final press conference Friday. In a statement issued by tournament organizers Friday, she said she’d been feeling “lousy” and needed time to recover after she “just kind of collapsed” after her semifinal win on Thursday.
Williams dropped the opening set in four of her six matches in Paris on the way to the final. She’d been down a set and a break in her third-round match with former top-ranked Victoria Azarenka, a round after an error-strewn performance against Anna-Lena Friedsam, a German ranked 104 spots below her. In the last 16, Williams was a game away from losing against fellow American Sloane Stephens, while she once again lost the opening set to Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland in the semifinals.
She played her best match of the tournament against Safarova, who didn’t have enough of variety on her service to threaten Williams.
After almost hitting her opponent in the warm-up with a practice serve, Williams held her first two service games with an ace. Having nailed a winner off a 127 kilometers-an-hour second-serve to set up break point, Williams ripped a forehand return to go up 3-1.
Trailing 5-2, Safarova saved a set point on her own serve with a forehand down the line. Williams took the first set on with another blistering serve as she shouted ‘Come on.’
Another break followed in the opening game of the second set, this time with an inside-out backhand. Safarova was under pressure again trailing 3-1, getting broken for a third time as Williams raised both arms after cracking a backhand return winner.
Safarova, the fifth left-hander into a major women’s final since tennis turned professional in 1968, has now lost all nine matches against Williams.