Saturday, June 06, 2015

2015 FRENCH OPEN: Serena Wins 20th Major, 3rd FO Despite Losing Huge Lead Over Safarova

As I predicted, Serena Williams won her 20th major title, her 3rd French Open at Roland Garros, by defeating Lucie Safarova. The win means that she becomes the second player in the open era (after Steffi Graf) to win at least 20 major titles, and that she has won the last three major tournament. If she wins Wimbledon in a month, she will have her second Serena slam, and it is very possible she could complete the calendar Grand Slam by then winning the U.S. Open (for the fourth consecutive year).

However, the match itself was anything but predictable. After hitting the ball cleanly and powerfully for a full hour and wracking up an apparently insurmountable lead at 6-3, 4-1, 40-15 serving, Serena (as she herself put it) "choked." Safarova hit a screaming return winner at that point and Serena started putting the ball into the net and suddenly she couldn't buy a first serve and started double faulting. Okay, we thought, it's a good thing she's up an insurance break, surely she will right the ship when serving at 4-3? Nope! She double-faulted multiple times, including on break point and again Safarova held, to go up 5-4 in the second set. Seren played a strong service game and broke Safarova to serve for the championship, getting to 30-15 (2 points away!) before Safarova struck back again, hitting powerful ground strokes and earning weak replies to break Serena and take the match to a middle set tiebreak. Safarova had played 5 tiebreaks in the tournament to date and won all 5 of them, and the sixth was no different, with Serena continuing to have service difficulties, including a double fault and no aces.

Amazingly the drama was not complete, because Serena started the third set by unceremoniously losing her serve, which Safarova consolidated. Serena at this point was absolutely livid, and received a code violation for the numerous and vociferous expletives she hurled into the Paris sunshine. It must have worked because the American was able to rattle off 6 consecutive games (a repeat of what she did last Saturday when she was down 0-2 in the final set against Victoria Azarenka in the 3rd round) and won the match and the championship 6-3 6-7(3) 6-2.

Serena is now 31-1 for the year and is on a  21-match winning streak at the major tournaments dating back to the 2014 U.S. Open.

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