( ENSPIRE NEWS ) Serena Williams Wins Landmark 20th Major
Despite being sapped by a nasty flu for much of the last week, the American beat Lucie Safarova 6-3 6-7 (2) 6-2 to win the French Open on Saturday and claim a landmark 20th major.
“It seems a little bit like a dream,” Williams told reporters. “Like, is this really my life? Is this really happening right now? So yeah, it’s really kind of weird.” But as the score suggested, this was no walk in the Bois de Boulogne — a park close to Roland Garros — for Williams against the Czech. The way the tournament unfolded for the 33-year-old, perhaps it should have been expected. Williams did the almost unthinkable by blowing a 4-1 advantage in the second set and trailed 2-0 in the third. She recovered, to no one’s surprise, and now only Graf has more majors in the Open Era at 22. With Williams going strong in her early 30s, Graf’s record is under serious threat.
The world No. 1 even has a realistic chance of matching the German in 2015, since she’s claimed five Wimbledon titles and is the three-time defending champion at the U.S. Open. Of course that would mean Williams winning all four majors in a season, something not accomplished since Graf did it in 1988. But who’d rule her out? Not her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. “I think it’s the most difficult thing to do in tennis,” Mouratoglou told reporters. “That’s why it doesn’t happen often. But as she won the first two, why not believe it’s possible? And second, with her, everything is possible.” By winning in Melbourne and Paris, Williams already became the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to claim the first two grand slams in the same season. Heading into Saturday, it looked as if Williams might be vulnerable against Safarova, the 13th seed who was making her debut in a grand slam final.
Williams said via a question-and-answer session released by the tournament Friday she had been suffering from the flu and “collapsed” after her draining, comeback victory in three sets in the semifinals against Timea Bacsinszky. She didn’t practice Friday, either, opting to stay at her apartment in Paris and rest. “She had so much fever,” said Mouratoglou. “She stayed in bed the whole day. She tried to walk a little bit. It wasn’t brilliant so she came back.” The Frenchman added that on Saturday her condition improved and the fever disappeared. “I hit a little bit today in the morning and I hit them pretty well,” said Williams. “I was just like, ‘Okay, I have been playing for over 30 years, I know I can at least play tennis.’ After that I just went out to play a match.”
When Williams went off court just before the final was about to begin, a dramatic afternoon seemed on the cards. It ended up that way, though no one would have predicted it when Williams surged to a huge lead in the second set. Rallying from a set down to overcome Anna-Lena Friedsam, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens and then Bacsinszky, overturning a 2-0 deficit in the third was merely child’s play for Williams. Of the seven majors they’ve won together in three years, Mouratoglou said this year in Paris marked Williams’ second-most difficult path to glory behind Wimbledon in 2012. Williams, meanwhile, said it topped her entire list.
“Here it was very difficult because she was very sick,” said Mouratoglou. “She was without energy in matches, and to find the energy, she found emotions that were very deep.”