Serena Williams ended an 11-year gap in her tennis resume by winning her second French Open with an emphatic 6-4, 6-4 victory over Maria Sharapova on Saturday at Roland Garros.
It is a mark of Williams’s strength, her dominance, right now that even Sharapova, a scrappy fighter despite her glamorous image, couldn’t win a set. After serving for the win, Williams sank to her knees on the red clay, then rose and walked around the court looking for all the world as if she couldn’t believe she’d just won her 16th major championship.
“Eleven years ago, I didn’t think I’d still be playing,” Williams told NBC’s Mary Carillo. “I never thought I would play past 28 or something, but, hey, I’m still here.”
Williams is now one of only four women to have won all four Grand Slam tournaments twice (Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Chris Evert). After battling health problems, she is happily back on top.
“I just feel so good.” she told Carillo. “This was the only one that I haven’t won more than one [time] and now I have multiples of every major, singles and doubles. It just feels really good. I’m really, really, really pumped.”
Sharapova hung in there, but was no match for the powerful Williams, whose serve was more consistent. “The most important thing is to try to get in the points with her and today when I had those chances, she came out with really big first serves and second volleys,” Sharapova told Carillo. “She just really took advantage of any opportunities that I had. That’s always the toughest part playing against her.”
Sharapova now has lost 13 straight matches to Williams, who is growing accustomed to Paris. She has addressed the crowd in French after her victories, owns an apartment in the city and warmed up for Roland Garros by taking a class in painting.
By popular request here is a picture of my first painting work. It is from the “Expressions” series this o… mob.li/_dsgCd
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) May 30, 2013
She’s also working with Patrick Mouratoglou, a French coach.
“I think he’s been a very calming influence on her,” Fed Cup coach Mary Joe Fernandez told the Associated Press. “His demeanor is just very down to earth. She has said how she gets anxious sometimes and has to tell herself to relax at times. I think she’s much more calm when she plays now.”
A year ago, she was bounced from Roland Garros in the first round for the first time in her career. After that, she regrouped and has won three of the last four Slam events and an Olympic gold medal. At Roland Garros, she matched her best Grand Slam effort by losing only 29 games (the same number she lost in winning the 2002 U.S. Open). Williams, who will turn 32 in four months, said after her semifinal win that she feels only she can beat herself right now.
Next stop, Wimbledon.