Saturday, June 08, 2013

2013 FRENCH OPEN: Serena Wins 2nd FO Title; 16th Major

As I predicted, Serena Williams won her second French Open title, exactly 11 years after her first, by defeating the defending 2012 champion Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-4 and claim her 16th major title.

How It Happened
The match was a surprisingly close affair, despite Serena winning the first three points on Sharapova's serve to go up triple breakpoint in the very first game. Sharapova escaped that game with some clutch serving, including some powerful second serves. Amazingly, the very next game Serena was broken to begin the championship match with 0-2 deficit. She missed a lot of first serves just long and Sharapova returned well and traded powerful groundstrokes with Serena until an error resulted. However, Serena was able to break Sharapova in her next service game and hold her own to nudge ahead 3-2. Serving at 4-3 Serena was broken again by some strong play from Sharapova but Serena buckled down and broke back and then calmly served out the first set to go up 6-4.

In the second set Serena started serving well so all the pressure was on Sharapova's service games. Serena had five break points in Sharapova's first service game but again the Russian was able to hold, this time with some strong baseline play and forehand errors from Serena. However, in the next service game Serena was able to break and hold serve to go up 3-1. Serena tried to get a double break in the 5th game but when Sharapova held Serena just calmly held serve the rest of the way, including an ace on championship point.

Serena ended with 10 aces and no doubles faults (compared to Sharapova's 2 aces and four double faults) and 29 winners to 20 unforced errors (Sharapova had 10 winners and 17 unforced errors). There was no question that Serena was the better player, but the fact that it was not a blowout is a testament to Sharapova's tenacity and mental toughness (and improved movement).

Serena's 16th major (5 Australian, 2 French, 5 Wimbledon, 4 US Open) puts her within striking distance of the 18 held by Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. She has now won every grand slam singles and doubles title multiple times. She improves to 16-4 in major finals and 14-2 lifetime over Sharapova. It was her 52nd WTA career title.

At age 31, Serena is the oldest female player to win a major title since Martina Navartilova won the 1990 Wimbledon at age 33. If she really does play until the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she may even match Steffi Graf's haul of 22 major titles and will almost certainly end her career with more titles than Roger Federer.

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