Sick with flu, Williams gets through to win
Clearly not herself, Serena rallies to beat Bacsinszky to advance to French Open final.
PARIS — At changeovers in her French Open semifinal, an ill Serena Williams walked ever so slowly to the sideline, where even lowering herself to sit seemed difficult.
With the temperature nearing 85 degrees, she pressed white towels filled with ice against her forehead and neck and guzzled water.
Early on, her play was as poor as her health. She failed to chase balls she normally would. As telling as anything: On those occasions when she did win points, Williams mostly refrained from her familiar fist pumps and yells of “Come on!”
But she never can be counted out, no matter the circumstances. Down a set and a break Thursday, and clearly not herself, Williams summoned the resolve to reach the final by beating 23rd-seeded Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.
After getting broken to fall behind, 3-2, in the second set, Williams won the final 10 games. She had a 12-2 edge in winners in the final set.
“Stunning,” said Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. “This is the difference between champions and everyone else. There is no logical explanation.”
Mouratoglou said the No. 1-ranked Williams has been dealing for several days with flu, including a fever and difficulty breathing.
Williams skipped her news conference — something sister Venus did after losing last week, drawing a $3,000 fine — and issued a statement reading: “I have been feeling unwell for a few days, and … I needed to see the tournament doctor.”
Now one win from her third French Open and 20th major title in all, Williams faces 13th-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic on Saturday.
Next comes Williams’ 24th Grand Slam final, and Safarova’s first. In her statement, Williams called herself “determined to be 100% ready.”
The left-handed Safarova, who eliminated defending champion Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, beat 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic, 7-5, 7-5, on Thursday.
If she defeats Safarova, Williams, 33, would add to her 2002 and 2013 French Open titles and collect a third consecutive major championship.
SERENA WILLIAMS reacts after scoring a point in semifinal win; she will meet Lucie Safarova in final.