Serena Williams powered her way to the French Open title Saturday with a straight sets victory over defending champion Maria Sharapova of Russia in a compelling final. The top seed from the United States ran out a 6-4 6-4 winner in one hour 46 minutes to clinch her 16th grand slam crown.
Sharapova put up a brave fight but could not prevent Williams from claiming her first French Open title since her maiden triumph in 2002. The 26-year-old had not beaten her American opponent since 2004 and despite taking a 2-0 lead in the first set, then found Williams an irresistible force.
Serving for the match, Williams took the first of two championship points, clinching it with a thunderous ace, her 10th of a gripping final. “I was so nervous, I’m just happy to be champion,” she told the capacity crowd on the Philippe Chatrier Court, speaking in French.
“I had a dream when I was 10 years old that I would win the title here and talk to the crowd in French,” she admitted after lifting the Suzanne Lenglen trophy for the second time.
“I played a great tournament but ran into a really tough champion today,” said the beaten Sharapova, whose victory over Sara Errani of Italy in last year’s final completed her career grand slam.
Williams, who has been in superlative form on the Roland Garros clay, crushed Errani in just 46 minutes in the semifinals to serve notice of her intent ahead of the title match. But Sharapova, herself an impressive winner over Victoria Azarenka in the last four, made a fine start to break early and take the initiative.
Williams, who has lost just three matches since her upset defeat to Virginie Razzano in the first round of the French Open last year, immediately hit back and led 4-3 with a second break of Sharapova’s service.
World No.2 Sharapova refused to bow and claimed Williams’ service to level at 4-4 before she was broken for a third time. Williams served it out to go a set to the good in 51 minutes and a single break of service in the second in the end proved decisive.
It was her 31st straight win and with it Williams has moved to within two of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who are tied fourth in the all-time list of grand slam singles titles winners. At 31 years and 247 days, she is oldest woman in the Open Era to win the French Open title, the previous mark held by Evert since 1986.
She has now won three of the last four grand slams, a run interrupted by a shock defeat to compatriot Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open earlier this year.