FRENCH OPEN FINALS
Fighting flu, she drops a set in French Open final, but manages to ‘pull it together.’
Serena Williams reacts en route to her third title at Roland Garros as she beats Lucie Safarova. On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray and will play Stan Wawrinka in final.
PARIS — What started out as a stroll became quite a struggle for Serena Williams.
After going up by a set and two breaks in the French Open final Saturday, she double-faulted away that lead. Then, suddenly, she trailed in the third set.
As the tension thickened, Williams was warned by the chair umpire for cursing loudly.
But when Williams plays her best, no one is better. Putting aside a lingering illness, a mid-match lull and a feisty opponent, Williams won her third title at Roland Garros and 20th Grand Slam singles trophy by beating 13th-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2.
“I got so frustrated. I was just so angry at myself. I pretty much gave the match away,” the No. 1-seeded Williams said, her voice scratchy and her nose stuffy. “I just had to, like, try to pull it together.”
That she did, taking the last six games and adding to her 2002 and 2013 championships on the French Open’s red clay. Those go alongside six each from the U.S. Open and Australian Open, and five from Wimbledon.
Only two players in the century-plus history of Grand Slam tennis have more: Margaret Court with 24, and Steffi Graf with 22.
Williams, 33, also stretched her winning streak at the majors to 21 matches, following titles at the U.S. Open last September and Australian Open in January. She is the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win the Australian Open and French Open back-to-back and heads to Wimbledon’s grass with a chance to extend a bid to accomplish just about the only thing she hasn’t: win a calendar-year Grand Slam.
“Why not?” said her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. “That’s probably the most difficult thing to do in tennis. But it’s possible.”
Saturday’s victory did not come easily for Williams, who skipped practice Friday because she was sick, sleeping until the afternoon at her Paris apartment.
Owner of the most feared serve in women’s tennis, she double-faulted 11 times.
She made 25 unforced errors in the second set alone, and 42 in all, 25 more than Safarova, a 28-year-old lefty with a whip-like forehand appearing in her first major final.
Williams got broken serving for the match at 6-5 in the second set, then was down 2-0 in the third, before turning things around.
SERENA WILLIAMS celebrates after beating 13th-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic. Williams earned her third French Open title.