In the battle between the top two players in the Open Era, number two has bested number one, seven out of eleven times. Moreover, in the last twenty years, the world number one has conquered Roland Garros only twice. Consequently, Maria Sharapova could have taken solace from those statistics. However, the defending champion had Serena Williams across the net. Williams prevailed 6-4, 6-4 to capture her second title in Paris and her 16th major overall.
A staggering twelve successive losses, a nine year drought was the ghost that Sharapova was attempting to banish against Williams who made no secret of her hunger to hoist the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. Since Serena defeated sister Venus in the 2002 final, no American had advanced to the ultimate match in eleven years.
From the first game, Sharapova demonstrated despite a 2-13 record against her rival, she was not willing to gift wrap her title. The Russian overcame love-40 and saved a fourth break point to hold. Sharapova then took advantage of errors from Williams to bank a break for 2-0.
But, Sharapova’s lead was short-lived. Soon, with an overhead winner, Williams got the set back on serve. Later, in the fifth game, with Sharapova flubbing a forehand, Williams sealed the break for a 3-2 edge. Despite being tested, Williams consolidated for 4-2.
With Sharapova capitalizing on miscues by her opponent in the eighth game, the first set was leveled at 4 all. Once again though, Williams turned up the screws, forcing Sharapova to muff a backhand up the line for double break point. Promptly with a forehand crosscourt winner, Williams moved ahead 5-4. The world number one comfortably guarded serve to pocket the opening set.
In the initial set, Sharapova was 100% on break point conversion, committed only six unforced errors versus four winners while Williams was three of nine on break points with twelve unforced errors and nine winners. In spite of these solid numbers, Sharapova could not unsettle her adversary. Moreover, to Sharapova’s dismay, Williams sanitized her play in the second set.
In near carbon copy of the previous set’s opening game, Sharapova salvaged five break points to hold. After Williams cruised to get to 1 all, she forced Sharapova into a forehand mistake to fabricate a break point. With the Russian’s backhand crosscourt landing wide, Williams secured the break. The world number one consolidated at love for a 3-1 lead.
Although Sharapova did not face another break point the rest of the way, she was continually challenged on her serve by Williams. Conversely, the American coasted on her service games, never staring at deuce.
Subsequent to Sharapova maintaining serve for 4-5, Williams struck an ace to start off the game which would give her the championship. By crushing a forehand up line for a winner, Williams arrived at double match point. Quickly, with her tenth ace of the day, Williams claimed her second singles trophy at the French Open.
Sharapova expressed that she came up against “a tough champion who has been playing well since last year. It was hard to get into the point, she took away any opportunities I had. . . I did something to get to this point, I was not going to leave the court without giving it everything I had. I was not going to give it to my opponent. It’s disappointing, so many great memories from last year. But I love being a part of this tournament, I’ll be back next year”.
Eleven years to the day since she last triumphed in Paris, Williams endeared herself to the crowd by doing her acceptance speech in their tongue. The champion stated at the age of ten she affirmed to her parents that she would win this trophy. She’s overjoyed to achieve her dream. Williams thanked her parents for their support.
Williams cited that she never dreamt she would still be competing at this age, but “it’s nice to have multiple of every major now. . . I’m really pumped”
What a difference a year makes! In 2012, Virginie Razzano ushered Williams out in the first round. Since then, Williams has surrendered only four matches and is on a 31 match winning streak. Moreover, in her third decade, Williams is the oldest player to prevail at Roland Garros. Also, Williams is now tied with Margaret Court and Martina Navratilova in terms of competitors who’ve won the most majors in their 30’s.
With an amazing record of 16-4 in major finals, Williams is now two away from knotting Chris Evert and Navratilova who are third on the list with 18. Considering her fitness and focus, it’s difficult to picture any rival deterring Williams from that feat.