Serena wins 20th Grand Slam

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY AL­LAN KELLY

Serena Wil­liams won her 20th Grand Slam ti­tle and third French Open crown at Roland Gar­ros on Satur­day, claw­ing her way back from a break down in the last set to de­feat Lu­cie Sa­farova 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 6-2.

In what was a dis­jointed af­fair, the 33- year- old Amer­i­can was coast­ing to a straight-sets win, a set and 4-1 up against the Czech 13th seed, play­ing in her first Grand Slam fi­nal at the age of 28.

But a com­bi­na­tion of serv­ing woes for Wil­liams and some top play from Sa­farova forced a third set, the fifth of the tour­na­ment for the Amer­i­can.

She fell 0-2 down in that, but re­cov­ered her com­po­sure in the nick of time to rat­tle off six games in a row for the ti­tle.

With 20 Grand Slam ti­tles Wil­liams is now sec­ond on the Open­era list, two shy of St­effi Graf. She is also now half­way to win­ning all four Grand Slam ti­tles, in the same year, a feat pre­vi­ously achieved by just three other women, the last be­ing Graf in 1988.

For Sa­farova, who reached the fi­nal with­out drop­ping a set, the con­so­la­tion will be her de­but in the world top 10, at num­ber seven. And she has the women’s dou­bles fi­nal to fol­low on Sun­day, play­ing with Amer­i­can Bethanie Mat­tekSands.

“I played very well and she was a mag­nif­i­cent op­po­nent for me,” Wil­liams said.

“She was very ag­gres­sive and I was a bit ner­vous at a set and a break up.

“It’s spe­cial for me be­cause I don’t play well all the time here (in Paris), but I am so pleased to win my 20th Grand Slam here.”

Sa­farova said she was proud of the way she had fought back in the sec­ond set af­ter it seemed she was head­ing for a heavy de­feat.

“Serena was re­ally strong out there. I just pushed my­self to step up the level,” she said.

“But when she won the serve on 2-1 (in the last set) she just stepped up her ten­nis again. She did some great shots to break me and started to play re­ally strong. She was just play­ing bet­ter than me.”

Wil­liams had strug­gled with a bout of the flu through­out the tour­na­ment’s sec­ond week, need­ing four times to fight back from a set down just to reach the fi­nal.

But af­ter two days of “rest and ther­apy” in her Paris apart­ment she came out look­ing some­what re­freshed if more sub­dued than usual as she stared fixedly at the ground be­tween points.

She played well within her­self on serve, tak­ing pace off her first ball and then al­low­ing Sa­farova an easy hold to level.

But the Amer­i­can upped the pace sud­denly in the fourth game, clinch­ing the first break of the match with a scorch­ing fore­hand cross­court win­ner.

Sa­farova top-edged two re­turns high up into the crowd as the Amer­i­can con­tin­ued to crank up the pres­sure, but the Czech player stayed in touch with a hold for 4-2.

Wil­liams let out two loud “c’mons” as she held serve for the fourth straight time to make it 5-2 and two games later the first set was in the bag in just 31 min­utes. Sa­farova had failed to muster a sin­gle break point.

Wil­liams had never failed to win a Grand Slam ti­tle on the 17 oc­ca­sions she had taken the first set, and she honed in on an­other straight sets win by break­ing serve to open the sec­ond and then hold­ing to love.

Sa­farova had a moun­tain to climb as the crowd tried to rally her, but an­other ser­vice loss saw her fall 4-1 be­hind.

Out of the blue though Wil­liams, sud­denly flung the Brno-born player a life­line, dou­ble-fault­ing twice to drop serve.

Two games later she was un­done again by some loose shot­mak­ing and an­other dou­ble fault. Against all the odds and to gen­eral sur­prise, Sa­farova was level at 4-4.

Wil­liams served for the match at 6-5 af­ter an­other break, but Sa­farova pro­duced her best ten­nis of the fi­nal to force the tie-break, which she won eas­ily.

Sa­farova moved 2-0 up in the third be­fore Wil­liams resur­faced, tak­ing six games in a row for the win.

At 33 years and 254 days Wil­liams is just nine days younger than was Martina Navratilova, who be­came the old­est Open-era Grand Slam win­ner at Wim­ble­don 1990.

She will now switch her fo­cus onto Wim­ble­don which starts in three weeks where a ti­tle win would give her all four Grand Slam crowns at the same time — a feat she pre­vi­ously achieved when she won the 2003 Aus­tralian Open.

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