Serena Williams won her second French Open title yesterday, 11 years after her first triumph, defeating title-holder Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4 in a brief, but high-quality final.
It was the 31-year-old American’s 16th Grand Slam title win, taking her to within two of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who are joint-fourth on the all-time list.
And it underscored her near total domination of the women’s game, having won three of the last four Grand Slam titles – at Wimbledon, the US and French Opens – and reaching the quarter-finals at the Australian Open.
“It was very difficult today,” said Williams. “But now I have 16 titles. I want to come back next year because I adore Paris and I adore the public here. I want to win here again.”
For Sharapova it was a 10th straight loss to her American nemesis dating back to 2004 when she defeated her in the Wimbledon final and the WTA Championships when she was just 17-years-old.
“I played a great tournament, but ran into a really tough opponent today,” she said. “She has been playing so well this year and the whole of last year as well.”
Williams opened up with a sequence of brutal service returns that had Sharapova scampering from side to side and within minutes 0-40 down.
But the tall Russian served her way out of trouble and then showed her aggressive intentions by breaking Williams in the next game.
Sharapova had two points for a 3-0 lead, but Williams started to find her range again to break back and was soon on level terms at 2-2.
She broke again to lead 3-2 and suddenly she looked in command of a match that had started so brightly for Sharapova.
The crowd tried to lift the defending champion, who was seeking her fifth Grand Slam title and second at Roland Garros, and she did manage to get back on level terms briefly at 4-4 with Williams bothered by the gusting wind.
But the American produced her best tennis of the match in the next game with some big hits down both flanks and then held serve to take the first set in 51 minutes.
The task on hand for Sharapova was huge, illustrated by the fact that in Grand Slam tennis, after taking a one set to love lead 208 times, the American had failed to complete the job just five times.
Sharapova saved five break points to start the second set, but two games later she struggled again on serve and this time Williams converted her first break point to put herself in the clear at 4-2.
She then comfortably served out twice, with three aces to conclude with, to gleefully banish 11 years of frustrations at Roland Garros.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2013.