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Beyond the Baseline

Serena Williams vs. Sara Errani: French Open semifinal live analysis

Sara Errani and Serena Williams Sara Errani (left) was no match for Serena Williams. (Michel Spingler/AP)

It wasn't the most lopsided French Open semifinal of all time, but it was pretty close.

Serena Williams played a near-perfect match to beat Sara Errani 6-0, 6-1 in a mere 46 minutes to make her first French Open final since she won the tournament in 2002. In notching her 30th straight win, Williams hit 40 winners to just 12 unforced errors, an incredible plus-28 differential. Williams nearly matched Chris Evert's double bagel of Camille Benjamin in the 1984 semifinals.

"She played unbelievable," Errani said after the match. "When she plays like this, is for me is difficult to play. She's very strong, so [there's] nothing to do."

Williams is into her 20th major final, where she'll try to become just the fourth woman in the Open Era to win each Slam at least twice. She'll face Maria Sharapova, who defeated Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 2-6, 6-4. Williams has not lost to Sharapova since 2004, winning 12 consecutive matches.

The women's final will be played on Saturday at 9 a.m. ET.

Game-by-game analysis of Williams-Errani after the jump.


Getty Serena's 30-match win-streak is the longest of her career. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

Second Set

1:18 p.m. ET | Serena defeats Errani 6-0, 6-1.

On break point, Serena is standing just a few feet behind the service box to return a 60 mph second serve from Errani. Shockingly, she misses it wide and lets out a scream. She gets another second serve to look at on the next break point and she nails the return. Walking back to serve out the match, Serena gives herself a grimacing fist pump.

Unlike the first semifinal, there's no drama as Serena goes to serve out the match. She spins an ace out wide and that's it. Game, set, match to Serena in 46 minutes. That's just the worst matchup for Errani, but few would have any chance against the Serena who showed up today.

http://twitter.com/TrudelSteph/status/342692100720173056

1:10 p.m. ET | Serena leads 4-1.

Through nine games, Serena has won 38 points. Errani has won 10 points. Through three games in the second set, Serena won 12 points. Errani won two.

But here's a chance for Errani. She's up 30-0 on her serve. Then Serena cracks a huge winner and then paints a line as she lunges for a backhand stab-volley. Errani looks at her with a "You gotta be kididng me with that" kind of look.

But she holds! Errani throws her hands up in the air victoriously and the crowd actually comes alive. The double bagel is off the table.

https://twitter.com/jon_wertheim/status/342689992226770944

Meanwhile, this is weird news. It's the 30th anniversary of Yannick Noah's French Open win and they could have a Frenchman in the final. Yet the FFT goes with Usain Bolt?

https://twitter.com/scambers73/status/342689599279226881

1:05 p.m. ET | Serena leads 3-0.

Remember Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl? Yeah, that's Serena right now. She is just bigger, faster and stronger by orders of magnitude. Errani's down 0-40 on her serve after Serena crushes yet another forehand winner and shrugs her shoulder. All she can do is hope for a letdown.

Another forehand return winner. Serena has won eight straight games.

"I wouldn't want to be Sara Errani right now," ESPN's Chris Evert says. "It's just an awkward and an uncomfortable feeling for her." It's an awkward and uncomfortable feeling for all of us.

Serena booms an ace to hold. Nine straight games.


First Set

12:54 p.m. ET | Serena wins the first set 6-0.

Serena breaks Errani at love and takes the first set in 21 minutes. She won 28 points in that set. 18 were winners.

So ... anyone seen any good movies lately?

Getty Serena came back from a break down in the third set to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals. (Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images)

12:50 p.m. ET | Serena leads 5-0.

Errani's leaving everything short and not going for enough on her serves. The Italian leads the tournament in first-service percentage, which means she hasn't been (nor does she usually) serve with any risk. She typically rolls it in to start the rally, which obviously isn't going to work against Serena, who's basically taking some light batting practice right now.

"Bring out Djokovic and Nadal. Right now," says Chris Evert, who wants to see those two take on Serena with how well she's playing. She's exaggerating but makes her point. At least I think she's exaggerating. She's exaggerating, right?

So I could keep telling you all the different ways Serena is overpowering Errani. Or I could post a picture of Serena and her coach/consultant/who-knows-what-more, Patrick Mouratoglou, at the ITF Champions Dinner the other night.

(Rindoff/Charriau/WireImage/Getty Images) (Rindoff/Charriau/WireImage/Getty Images)

12:44 p.m. ET | Serena leads 3-0.

Interesting tactical debate between Chris Evert and Darren Cahill. Evert thinks Errani, who lacks firepower, should stand closer to the baseline and take the ball early. Cahill says she should stand back to get more returns in. Tough call either way, but I side with Evert here.

Errani had a game point to hold in her first service game but she's got no chance if she lets Serena dictate from the middle of the court. That's just a recipe for a 6-0, 6-0 scoreline.

Serena breaks and now everyone is on Bagel Watch. She holds with a nasty, twisting second-serve ace. Halfway there.

Unless you took this bet. Which ... sorry?

https://twitter.com/BryanAGraham/status/342680185251958786

12:30 p.m. ET | Warm-up.

https://twitter.com/by_drew/status/342678685679226880

Sports Illustrated's Drew Lawrence basically sums up the pre-match analysis happening on ESPN. Does Errani have a shot here? Well, that's why we watch sports. You just never know. The diminutive Italian has never beaten Serena but she has taken a set off her, on the hard courts of Dubai in 2009, and she played a very tight first set against Serena last month on clay in Madrid.

It hasn't been said enough how impressive Errani's last year has been. Before 2012, she had never made it past the second round in Paris and had no wins over top-10 players. Since then she's 11-1 at Roland Garros, reached her third Slam semifinal and beaten a number of top-10 players. She scored her first career top-five victory this week, against No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska.

She'll be No. 5 on Monday and she's been able to maintain this level while playing more singles and doubles matches than any top-10 player. We're not even through the halfway point of the season but Errani has already played a WTA-leading 83 matches (this is her 84th). The next highest among the top 10 is Serena at 47 matches.

As for Serena, she's going for her 20th Slam final and her first at Roland Garros since she won the tournament in 2002. If she advances to the final, Serena would have a chance to become just the fourth woman in the Open Era to win each Slam twice, joining Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova.


Pre-match

No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 5 Sara Errani will meet in the semifinals of the French Open on Thursday. The match will follow the semifinal between Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, which is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. ET.

Williams is on a career-best 29-match winning streak after getting past Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals. This is her first trip to the semifinals since 2002, when she won her first and only French Open title.

Errani has had a strong encore performance to her runner-up finish at last year's French Open. She beat No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) in the quarterfinals for her first victory against a top-five player in 29 attempts.

Williams has won all five meetings, including a 7-5, 6-2 victory on clay at the Madrid Open last month.

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