Serena Williams is threatening to take women’s tennis hostage this summer.
11 years after she first won the French Open, she finally delivered an encore, an irresistible tour de force, here in this city she now calls her adopted home. And, frankly, it is hard to imagine anyone being able to prevent her successfully defending her Wimbledon title next month.The power and the glory of the Williams game has never shone more brightly, nor more destructively, than in the 12 months since she left Roland Garros as a first-round loser. In distress, she reacted to her shocking performance here last year by sending a message to Frenchman Patrick Mouratoglou asking if she could practise at the tennis academy he owns five miles away from here. She wanted privacy to pound out her frustration.
Mouratoglou watched proudly as Williams defeated defending champion Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4.
He is listed as her coaching consultant. In reality, he is her partner — and he deserves much credit for Williams being focused on her tennis for the past year with the same intensity and passion that she brought to the court when she first arrived on the circuit as the younger sister of Venus.
Unstoppable: Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova to win her second French Open title in Paris on Saturday
For too much of her career, Williams has left herself open to the suspicion that she could be guilty of playing at being a tennis player. The game came ridiculously easily to her. She chose when and where to compete and, if we are being honest, there were periods of her career when her fitness and dedication could be questioned. But then the Williams family have always been a law unto themselves.
But Serena is a changed athlete. She has lost just three of the 77 matches she has played since she retreated from Roland Garros, forlorn and confused, in the summer of 2012. Since then, she has won Wimbledon, the US Open, two Olympic gold medals and now the French Open to acquire her 16th Grand Slam championship to move to within two of matching the record of two legends of women’s tennis, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.
Time to relax: Williams in the locker room with the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen
Towering above the rest: Williams poses with the trophy near the Eiffel Tower
Williams theatrically seized the title from Sharapova with her 10th ace. She threw her racket into the air and sank to her knees. She walked about dazed and elated. She fanned her face with her hand and she was, for all the world, at that moment a teenager in love rather than the oldest woman, at 31 years and 256 days, to win this championship since Evert claimed a record seventh title in 1986.
One step too far: Sharapova has now lost her last 13 matches against the world No 1
Appropriately, Evert was calling the game for an American network. She will have smiled at how overwhelmed Williams was because Evert rarely allowed her emotions to show in public.
Williams gamely opted to conduct her on-court interview in French. No one cared that she sounded like an American cousin of Inspector Clouseau.
‘Je suis incroyable!’ said La Williams. Probably, she meant to say, more humbly, that ‘It had been unbelievable’ rather than ‘I am unbelievable’, but she won sustained applause as she added: ‘J’adore Paris.’ And another cheer when she explained that, as she lived and worked in the city for much of the year, she now considered herself Parisienne.
She was the most loved American in this city. Sharapova had required her to fight, though. The Russian’s resistance was commendable, and she was not betrayed by her service, as she can be at times of stress. Indeed, she caught Williams cold at the start to lead 2-0.
Game, set, match: Williams is indisputably the best player in women's tennis at the moment
Williams was to blame, perhaps. She had extended the pre-match protocol by staying at her courtside chair for an age after Sharapova and the match umpire had gone on court to stage the coin toss. Her statement was unmistakable: this is my place, and my time ... and my show.
Sharapova’s own formidable groundstrokes could do nothing to make Williams offer a retraction. Williams had lost a set in these championships, against Svetlana Kuznetsova, but her other five opponents had taken between them a mere 11 games from her. Her tournament was a microcosm of her past year, as Sharapova acknowledged.
‘She’s doing what she’s always done extremely well, but she’s just doing it on a much more consistent level,’ said Sharapova. ‘I know that’s a pretty broad answer, but that speaks a lot. It’s not like she’s changed something extremely in her game. She’s always had a big serve, a good serve. It’s just become much more consistent.
Too good: Williams will now be the hot favourite to win Wimbledon when it starts later this month
‘That you can still do it at that age if you have the desire and the motivation. I think that’s an extremely great effort, a great accomplishment. If you’re at that stage in your life where you still are motivated to go out and win tennis matches — and that’s the most important thing, one of the most important things in your life — I think that’s an amazing effort.’
Once Williams levelled the first set at 2-2, she was never behind again. And when she broke Sharapova’s service to take a 2-1 lead in the second set, the match was all over but for the handshake.
And when the final ace from Williams scorched a path through the clay, she could not disguise her ecstasy. Mouratoglou applauded along with the other 15,000 spectators, but he knew better than anyone the journey Williams has made in his company.
- 2013/06/09(日) 16:18:23|