PARIS – Set-by-set analysis of the 2015 French Open final between No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 13 Lucie Safarova.
Serena Williams defeats Lucie Safarova 6–3, 6-7 (2), 6–2 to win the 2015 French Open.
It's all about how you finish. After falling behind 0-2 in the final set, Serena screams at herself and then reels off the final six games to capture her third French Open title and 20th major overall. She also becomes the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win the Australian Open and French Open in the same year. The chase for the calendar Slam and Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22 majors is on.
Set 3: Serena, 6-2.
Complete Set 3 stats:
5:13 p.m., Serena holds, leads 5-2*: That's five straight games for Serena. She's locked in. She rebounds from a double-fault on the first point to out-defend Safarova, winning the longest rally of the match at 19 shots when Safarova finally misses a backhand wide. Safarova gets to 30-all but misses a second serve return badly. That has been her Achilles heel all day. She's had a number of 30-all swing points end with a missed return.
5:09 p.m., Serena breaks, leads *4-2: Safarova gets to game point but *just* misses a forehand long. Two points later she goes for a backhand down the line and again, just misses it long.
5:03 p.m., Serena holds, leads 3-2*: Love game from Serena. I'm not sure I've ever seen her this angry on court. She gets an audible obscenity code as she sits down on the changeover.
5:01 p.m., Serena breaks, tied 2-2: At 30-love, Safarova has a forehand pass cross-court lined up but nets it. That felt like a huge miss.
Sure enough, Serena gets it to 30-all with a big backhand down the line winner. She's asking herself where that shot has been the last hour. One point late she earns a break point as Safarova misses into the net.
4:57 p.m., Serena holds, trails *2-1: That's a love hold for Serena to get on the board. She's testing the quality of the on-court mics and the FCC with the number of F-bombs she's dropping now. On the changeover she waves the ballkid holding the umbrella away.
4:46 p.m., Safarova holds, leads 2-0*: Love hold from Safarova to consolidate the break, with the aid of two forehand unforced errors from Serena.
Set 2: Safarova, 7-6 (2).
4:45 p.m.: Safarova rallies from 1–4 down in the second set to take it in the tiebreak. The Czech earns a 3-0 lead early thanks to a double fault and error from Serena and then holds it out, showing off some fantastic defense to take it 7-2.
We're going three. What a fight back from Safarova.
Complete Set 2 stats:
4:40 p.m., Safarova breaks, tied 6-6*:What a return game from Safarova! She fires a massive backhand winner down the line to push this into a tiebreaker. Safarova is 5-0 in tiebreakers in Paris. Here we go.
4:36 p.m., Serena breaks, leads *6-5: Much better from Serena Williams. She finds her depth and power to keep Safarova pinned and the Czech helps her out with two key forehand unforced errors. Then she pummels a seconds serve with a clean backhand winner.
4:31 p.m., Serena holds, tied 5-5*: The American rights the ship. Pounds a big ace to start the set and yells "What the f*** are you doing?!" She then hangs in a longer rally to crunch a backhand winner. She holds at 15 to stop Safarova's run of four games.
4:27 p.m., Safarova holds, leads 5-4*: That's four straight games to Safarova as Serena's level has taken a nose-dive.
4:26 p.m., Safarova breaks again, tied 4-4: What a turn of events in the last 15 minutes. Safarova trailed by a double-break down 1-4 but she's back into the match thanks to Serena's drop in form. The American double-faults on break point again to give Safarova another break. It's level now.
4:18 p.m., Safarova holds, trails *4-3: The crowd is now behind the Czech underdog. They've woken up and they're chanting her name as she holds thanks to a few more errors from the Serena racket.
4:16 p.m., Safarova breaks back, trails 4-2*: Well that's a surprise. Safarova gets herself into a deuce game and earns her first break point of the match. Serena gifts the break with a double-fault.
4:10 p.m., Serena breaks again, leads *4-1: With a blistered backhand return that accounts for her 21st winner of the match, Serena gets a second break in this set. She's two games from her 20th major title.
4:04 p.m., Safarova holds, trails *2-1: Big hold from the Czech. She needs to keep the scoreboard pressure on Serena and hope that the American blinks as the finish line approaches.
4:00 p.m., Serena holds, leads 2-0*: Love hold. She is not dropping her level at all. In addition to the pure power it's the depth of shot that is taking all the time away from Safarova.
3:57 p.m., Serena breaks, leads *1-0: Safarova can't stop the bleeding. Serena pounds the ball, on the return, on the baseline, pretty much everywhere. At this point can Safarova get to the hour mark?
Set 1: Serena, 6–3.
It took barely 30 minutes, but the No. 1 seals it.
Clean, decisive, dominant. No other way to describe that set of tennis from Serena. Safarova has done nothing wrong but she's going to have to go for more risk and hope Serena's level drops. But even then, Safarova's best may not be enough against this version of Serena. When she's firing her serve as big as she is and taking big cracks on return, it's going to be a short day.
This is the best Serena has looked all tournament.
Complete Set 1 stats:
3:45 p.m., Safarova holds, trails *5-3: Good hold from Safarova after having to fight through a deuce game. She's not playing poorly at all. She's just being outhit.
3:41 p.m., Serena holds, leads 5-2*: Ace No. 3 from Serena to close out that game. Another 121 mph blinder out wide.
Which Serena showed up today? The unbeatable one.
3:38 p.m., Safarova holds, trails *4-2:Safarova can't get any depth or width on any of her shots to get into a protracted rally.
Stats through six games:
Rallies lasting 0-4 shots: 27
Rallies lasting 5+ shots: 6
3:34 p.m., Serena holds, leads 4-1*: Serena is in no mood to run today. The rallies have been short and that's because the American has taken the racket out of Safarova's hand. The Czech has hit just two unforced errors in five games. Serena is simply hitting through her, opening up the court with one crack of the racket and closing out the point going into the open court. So far she's hit nine winners to five unforced errors.
3:30 p.m., Serena breaks, leads *3-1: KA-POW. Serena gets double-break point at 15-40, absolutely pummels a forehand return cross court for winner and screams "COME ON!"
I'll have whatever flu-like symptoms Serena's having.
3:26 p.m., Serena holds, leads 2-1*: Safarova gets to 30-all on Serena's serve, thanks to an awkward bouncing overhead that Serena hits right at her, which the Czech redirects down the line. But Safarova sprays a forehand return on second serve and then Serena steps up to fire her second ace of the match, a 114 mph rocket out wide.
3:22 p.m., Safarova holds, tied 1-1*: Solid hold from Safarova at 30, aided by three unforced errors from Serena. The American is trying to hit big.
3:18 p.m., Serena holds 1-0*: Clean start for Serena. Before serving she ran off court for a quick toilet stop, and then comes out serving and hitting bombs. Two winners in that first game, with one being an ace.
It's a perfect day for tennis in Paris. The sun is shining, it's not too hot and both women have taken the court. Safarova has been in the hallway under Chatrier for the last 15 minutes stretching out and talking with her coach, Rob Steckley. She looks relaxed, smiling throughout the her warm-up.
As for Serena, regardless of illness or form, she's the heavy favorite today. She's 8-0 against Safarova and has won 16 of the 19 sets they've played. While Safarova is playing in her first Slam final at 28-years old, Serena is playing in her 24th. She is 19-4 in Slam finals and 2-0 in finals here in Paris. A win here would get her one step closer to matching Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22 majors. She would also become the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win both the Australian Open and French Open in the same year. Only four women in the Open Era have ever won the titles back-to-back. Serena will serve first.
Serena Williams will go for her 20th major title on Saturday at the French Open. Standing in her way are Slam final debutante Lucie Safarova, ranked No. 13—and Williams' own body. The American has been under the weather in Paris and struggled physically as she staved off another upset bid in the semifinals, rebounding to beat No. 23 Timea Bacsinszky by reeling off the last 10 games of the match.
Will Serena be healthy enough to compete at a good level on Saturday? In four of her six matches she has started poorly, dropping the first set to No. 105 Anna-Lena Friedsam, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens and Bacsinszky. On the other hand, Safarova arrives to the final having not lost a set in six matches against top opposition. At the start of the tournament it was Serena who looked to have been given a tough draw. But it's Safarova who's had the tougher task. She opened with a win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenka and then her easiest match of the tournament came in the second round against Kurumi Nara. Next she scored a string of big wins over Sabine Lisicki, defending champion and No. 2 Maria Sharapova, the young Spanish upstart Garbine Muguruza and 2008 champion and No. 7 Ana Ivanovic. She has played five tiebreak sets and won them all, a strong indication she is handling the pressure moments well.
Serena is 8-0 against Safarova, with the Czech winning just three sets. Their last match came at the China Open last fall, where Serena won 6–1, 1–6, 6–2. A win on Sunday would cap off one of the wildest and confusing Slam-winning runs of Serena's career. It would also put her just two majors behind Steffi Graf's seemingly untouchable record of 22 major titles in the Open Era, opening up the distinct possibility—given her prowess at Wimbledon—that Serena could catch Graf this fall at the U.S. Open. Oh, and no pressure: if Serena does catch Graf in New York she'll be the first person to complete the calendar Slam since...Graf.
Tune in at 9 a.m. ET on NBC to watch the final.
This post will be updated.