For the first time in eleven years, Serena Williams has won the French Open—the first American woman to capture the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen since Serena beat her sister Venus on June 8th in 2002.
Williams won in two sets, 6–4, 6–4 in a match which, despite the numbers, was even through the first set, but went Serena’s way in the second.
Williams, who keeps an apartment in Paris, gave her trophy acceptance speech in French, but later in English on NBC she said that when she won her first French Open, she hadn’t expected to still be playing tennis at age 31.
“I didn’t think 11 years ago I would still be playing,” Serena said. “Honestly, I just feel so good. This is the only one I haven’t won more than once.”
It was Serena Williams’ 16th Grand Slam victory—she now has won every Grand Slam at least twice.
Number One Williams Versus Number Two Sharapova
Williams faced her longtime rival and defending French Open champion Maria Sharapova, who had not beaten Williams since 2004. Despite having lost twelve in a row to Serena, Maria Sharapova came out looking to win.
This match was an amazing display of tennis ability. Both players moved beautifully and hit with tremendous power, and both used a wide range of shots to try to catch the other off guard.
The first set was a back-and-forth battle. Sharapova broke Serena twice; Williams broke back three, winning the set six games to four on the strength of few more winners and being slightly better able to deal with Sharapova’s serve.
Serena somehow found a way to turbocharge her game in the second set. Her serve was even harder, her ground strokes more accurate (except for a few very wild misses, and her movement both laterally and longitudinally showed that she has made clay her surface.
Maria Sharapova’s serve worked well for her; Serena’s was even better. Williams delivered ten aces without a double fault. Her hardest serve hit 124 mph. Serena’s returns were equally powerful; some of Sharapova’s best serves were blasted back past her before she could set her feet to hit a return.
Even though she was overpowered in the second set, Sharapova never stopped fighting. She defended five break points in the first game of the set, and fought off another later.
Sharapova’s performance would have won her a second French Open title on any other day against any other opponent, but the Number-Two-ranked Russian couldn’t keep up with Number-one-ranked Serena Williams.
Stats show the differences between the two sets: Serena’s first serve percentage climbed from 57 to 83, and first serves won from 69 to 84. He second-serve points went from 33 percent to 100 percent (four for four) net points won went from three of five, to six of six—Serena won every time she came in.
Winners to unforced errors in the first set went 13-12 for Serena; 20 to 9 in the second. She only broke her opponent once as opposed to thrice in the first set, but her serve was never broken (as opposed to twice in the first set.)
Sharapova: My Best Wasn’t Enough
Maria Sharapova was gracious in defeat.
“First I want to really congratulate Serena,” Sharapova said on NBC after the match. “I have had many years at this tournament, and many tough ones. Last year was certainly one of the most special ones of my career.”
“To come back here and not win the big one is a disappointment but I love being part of this tournament, part o this event—I can’t wait to be back next year”
In a later interview she said, “I gave it all I had today and it wasn’t enough. Serena has been playing incredible tennis all year and she showed that level today.
Williams had only dropped one set throughout the tournament; her semi-final match against Sara Errani lasted only 45 minutes. Sharapova had a much tougher time getting to the finals: her semi-final match against Victoria Azarenka lasted three sets, the last one of which took over an hour itself.
“I gave it all I had today. I had to. It wasn’t enough,” Sharapova said. “Serena’s been playing incredible tennis for the last year. You certainly saw that level today.”