Paris | Serena Williams won her 20th Grand Slam title and third French Open crown at Roland Garros today, clawing her way back from a break down in the last set to defeat Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 6-2.
In what was a disjointed affair, the 33-year-old American was coasting to a straight-sets win, a set and 4-1 up against the Czech 13th seed, playing in her first Grand Slam final at the age of 28.
But a combination of serving woes for Williams and some top play from Safarova forced a third set, the fifth of the tournament for the American.
She fell 0-2 down in that, but recovered her composure in the nick of time to rattle off six games in a row for the title.
With 20 Grand Slam titles Williams is now second on the Open-era list, two shy of Steffi Graf. She is also now halfway to winning all four Grand Slam titles, in the same year, a feat previously achieved by just three other women, the last being Graf in 1988.
For Safarova, who reached the final without dropping a set, the consolation will be her debut in the world top 10, at number seven. And she has the women’s doubles final to follow on Sunday, playing with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
Williams had struggled with a bout of the flu throughout the tournament’s second week, needing four times to fight back from a set down just to reach the final.
But after two days of rest and therapy in her Paris apartment she came out looking somewhat refreshed if more subdued than usual as she stared fixedly at the ground between points.
She played well within herself on serve, taking pace off her first ball and then allowing Safarova an easy hold to level.
But the American upped the pace suddenly in the fourth game, clinching the first break of the match with a scorching forehand crosscourt winner.
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