Serena Williams won her 16th Grand Slam title and her first French Open championship since 2002 when she beat familiar foe Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday.
The victory completed the No. 1-ranked Williams’ rebound from a shocking loss to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano in the first round at Roland Garros a year ago. Since that defeat she’s 74-3, including titles at Wimbledon, the US Open, the London Olympics and the season-ending WTA Championships.
Williams whacked 10 aces, including three in the final game to extend her career-best winning streak to 31 matches. She improved to 14-2 against Sharapova, including victories in their past 13 meetings, with four of the wins this year.
At 31, Williams became the oldest woman to win a major title since Martina Navratilova won Wimbledon in 1990 at age 33. Her 11-year gap between Roland Garros titles is the longest for any woman.
Sharapova completed a career Grand Slam by winning Roland Garros last year.
In an all-Spanish final Sunday, Rafael Nadal will try to become the first man to win eight titles at the same Grand Slam event when he plays first-time major finalist David Ferrer.
The women’s final was the first between No. 1 and No. 2 at a Grand Slam since 2004, but wasn’t as close as their rankings. It has been 12 years since the most recent three-set women’s final at Roland Garros.
“It was very difficult today. After 11 years (since last win) and now I have 16 (Grand Slam titles),” said Williams, addressing the crowd in French.
“But I want to come back next year because I adore Paris and I adore the public here. I want to win here again.
“I spend a lot of time here (In Paris) … and I think I am becoming a Parisienne.”
Sharapova said: “I played a great tournament, but ran into a really tough opponent today. She has been playing so well this year and the whole of last year as well.
“But this court has brought me so many nice memories. Last year was so incredible to win and to be back as one of the last two players was great.”
Both players swung with their typical aggressiveness from the baseline, and Williams’ superior serve and defence proved the difference. She silently ran side to side whipping groundstrokes with little apparent strain, while Sharapova often found herself lunging after the ball to stay in the point, with each shot accompanied by her familiar shriek.
When Williams once summoned a grunt herself to match Sharapova’s volume and pound a winner, the crowd responded with a laugh.
Playing in hazy, warm weather, the finalists took ferocious swings from the start. With fans perhaps fearful that Williams would win quickly, they began shouting encouragement toward Sharapova after she lost the first two points.
She overcame four break points to hold in the opening game, and led 2-love before Williams began to assert herself. It took Williams 17 minutes to win a game, but then she swept four in a row.
After Sharapova took the next two for 4-all, Williams surged at the end of the set, taking the lead for good by winning eight of the final 10 points.
Sharapova had to dig in again to hold at the start of set two, fending off five break points, and it was all downhill for her from there. Williams easily held serve all the way to the finish.
She improved to 16-4 in Grand Slam finals. She leads all active women with her 16 major titles and is sixth on the all-time list. Margaret Court holds the record with 24.
Williams improved to 43-2 this year, including 23-0 on clay. Now comes the switch to grass, and she’ll be a heavy favourite to win Wimbledon for the sixth time.