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Serena Williams wins yet another Grand Slam

By: Allan Blanks

Serena Williams is by far the most dominant women's tennis player in the world and it doesn't seem like her reign will end any time soon.

Serena Williams is by far the most dominant women’s tennis player in the world and it doesn’t seem like her reign will end any time soon.

Saving her best for last, Serena Williams delivered thunderous returns and ferocious ground strokes to defeat Lucie Safarova, 6­-3, 6-7(5), 6­-2. The world’s number one had to fight the flu, and overcome a 2­-0 deficit in the third set, to capture her third French Open Championship. With this latest title, Williams has won a record breaking 53 French Open matches, and earned her 20th major championship.

“I think I’m going to faint in 20 minutes,” Williams said. “I’m trying to hold up but I don’t think I’m doing so well. Twenty [grand slam titles] is amazing to me and unfortunately I’m thinking about Wimbledon. I know it’s bad but I’m going to enjoy this moment and I feel like I’m going to faint because I’m so exhausted.”

In the third round, Williams began experiencing flu­-like symptoms, and it became evident that the top­-seeded player was unwell during her semifinal matchup with Timea Bacsinszky. Williams skipped Friday’s practice and opted out of pre-­finals interviews.

“This is by far the most dramatic [major victory],” Williams said. “I didn’t even train yesterday, I’ve had the flu and oh my gosh, it’s just been a living nightmare.”

Williams’ desire to win the French Open was tested early and often by the 13th seeded Safarova.

“She (Safarova) was a semifinalist at Wimbledon and she is a great player,” Williams said.

This was the ninth meeting between the two competitors, and the fourth time their matchup has been decided by three sets. Although Williams is undefeated against Safarova, the average margin of victory has been three games.

“I just tried to stay in the moment and fight for each point,” Safarova said. “I just wanted to give my best and Serena (Williams) was so strong today.”

Williams displayed pure power as she ripped 34 winners to Safarova’s 16. For the contest, the American’s serve yielded 11 aces compared to the 13th seed’s two.

As the clay absorbed the pace of ground strokes, this contest came down to placement and court positioning. This championship matchup featured the volatile power and explosive movements of Williams, against the precise shot­making and foot speed of Safarova. In the end, Williams outscored her opponent 97-­81, in total points won.

In the opening set, Williams punished the Czechoslovakian by painting razor sharp angles, and quickly exploiting scoring opportunities during rallies. Early and often, Williams pushed the sure­ footed Safarova from side­-to-­side, and kept the clay court specialist off­-balanced. The aggressive play of Williams produced 13 winners, and restricted Safarova to just five. During service games, the number one dictated points with her signature kick serve, and managed to win 12 points in spite of landing just 54­percent of her first serves. To win this contest, it was critical for Williams to attack Safarova’s serve and the top­-seeded competitor did just that. Williams consistently pinned the 13th seed deep in the court and took advantage of Safarova’s refusal to retreat behind the baseline. Both Williams and Safarova are relentless returners, however the number one seed won this statistical battle, 10­8.

After eight minutes of grueling match play, Williams took the first game of the second stanza, and found herself five games within her 20th major. This particular game previewed the intense fight awaiting the Compton, California native. Williams marched ahead 4-­1, and was two games away from joining Steffi Graf and Margaret Court with 20 or more majors. As victory appeared imminent, Williams had the chance to serve for a 5-­1 lead, and double-­faulted to give Safarova the break, 2-­4.

“I jinxed myself,” Williams said. “I choked, simple as that. I hit a lot of double-­faults, my first serve just went off, I didn’t get any first serves in and I got really nervous. It was a big moment to win 20 [majors]. I basically made no mistakes and I think she (Safarova) saw that I was nervous and she started playing the tennis that she likes.”

While Williams felt the intensity of the moment, Safarova stepped into her shots and played her brand of tennis. Refusing to be intimidated by Williams, Safarova exchanged powerful ground strokes and used her quickness to extend points with the top seed. Hitting to the center of the baseline proved favorable for Safarova, because Williams struggled to consistently generate accurate angles. As Williams struggled with consistency, Safarova aggressively counter-­punched and patiently positioned herself to hit winners.

With a new set of tennis balls, the 13th seed bounced in front of Williams 5­4. Safarova doubled her winners to 10, scored 19 points off her first serve and led the set in total points won, 43-­40.

Tied 5-­5, Williams crushed a backhand return cross court, and earned another opportunity to close the match at, 6­-5. Yet again, the Czechoslovakian battled back, and pounded a backhand down the line to force a second set tie­break. This was the second tie­break in the Williams­Safarova series, and the 13th ranked contender used her serve to create an error from the Williams forehand, to extend the contest to a third set.

Down 0-­2, Williams utilized a flat serve down the t, and put herself on the board 1­-2.

“I got so upset when I was down, 0­-2,” Williams said. ‘I thought, Serena you’re going to lose this.”

Williams is no stranger to adversity, and refused to surrender another games to Safarova. Casting her fears aside, Williams returned to the dynamic shot­making that propelled elevated her to tennis greatness. Game after game, Williams violently attacked ground strokes and viciously dismissed Safarova’s replies.

“She (Safarova) played great but I needed to step it up,” Williams said. “Once I relax, I don’t think about it [hitting winners]. I stop thinking, I start doing, and the next thing I know, I won.”

Williams outscored Safarova, 27­-16 in total points won and converted 75­percent of break point opportunities.

After conquering the French Open, Williams becomes the second American in 14 years to win both the Australian and French Open titles.

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Allan Blanks

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