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French Open 2015 Day 12: Serena back from the brink

Serena Williams hits a backhand
by Alex Sharp
Thursday 4 June 2015

Wimbledon.com's highlights from the twelfth day of the 2015 French Open at Roland Garros with the Women's semi-finals lighting up Philippe Chatrier.

Serena survives

It must take an incredible amount of steel and determination to win 19 singles Grand Slam titles and Serena Williams displayed all her fighting credentials to make her third French Open final.

The American had to battle from a set and break down to defeat 23rd seed Timea Bacsinszky 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 on Philippe Chatrier.

Williams was close to tears throughout the encounter, having struggled with sickness in recent days in Paris, and her Swiss opponent capitalised with some magnificent angled groundstrokes.

Bacsinszky, in her first ever Grand Slam semi-final, managed to break for 3-2 with a massive backhand winner followed by a delicate lob over a despairing Williams.

A spluttering Williams looked dejected at the changeover, after Bacsinszky kept ahead for 6-4, having had no answer to the heavy hitting from her dogged opponent.

Despite falling another break behind and limited by her apparent physical difficulties, Williams rallied and scorched a blazing backhand winner to turn the tables to pressurise Bacsinszky’s serve, after a barrage of thunderous shots.

The world No.24 caved into the Williams power and aggression to relinquish her serve at 3-2 in the second set, which was most definitely the turning point.

Williams then rattled off 10 straight games with consummate ease and will head into her 24th Grand Slam singles final on Saturday in pursuit of number 20.

One felt for Bacsinszky as she left the court in tears to a rousing reception, but Williams was an absolute force that would not be swayed.

"She found the solution against a very little Swiss girl who did her best today," said a devastated Bacsinszky.

"I don't think I've ever been this sick," Williams told ESPN. "I didn't expect to win that, I really didn't."

"I got the flu after my third-round match and I've been really struggling ever since then. Hopefully this is the worst and I'll get better from here.

"I thought, 'If I'm going to lose, I'm going to go for winners.' The next thing I know it was a set all and I thought, 'I really don't feel like playing a third set.' I was so tired. I just fought for every point and here I am."

Safarova surges

After 12 long years on Tour, Lucie Safarova will finally contest a Grand Slam final in Paris on Saturday.

Remarkably, during her run to the doubles semi-finals with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and in her singles quest, the Czech hasn’t dropped a set yet.

On Thursday in fiercely hot conditions, Safarova took on 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic.

The Serb was the far more assured and accurate player in the opening exchanges, breaking Safarova at the first attempt to lead 3-0 thanks to her pin-point forehand.

However the left-hander was far from intimidated and despite falling 2-5 down, managed to find more consistent, deep hitting tennis to coax Ivanovic into a series of unforced errors.

The Czech fired herself back into the contest by taking the initiative in the rallies whilst Ivanovic completely lost her serving rhythm to hand away points with doubles and left the door open for Safarova to break 6-5.

Ivanovic netted a simple volley and fell victim to some destructive forehands from over the net to surrender the opener 7-5.

The early exchanges of the second set followed a similar pattern as the Serb kept rattling up the unforced errors, meanwhile Safarova kept finding the lines.

The pressure told as the 13th seed broke Ivanovic in the third game and managed to maintain that advantage until 5-4.

Serving for the match Safarova froze and her opponent pounced on two Safarova double faults to break at the fourth attempt to prolong the match.

Unfortunately for the world No.7 such joy was short lived as Safarova earned another break with a sublime backhand down the line and composed herself to serve out the match in style.

Unfortunately Safarova now faces a daunting task in the final, having never beaten Serena Williams in eight attempts to date.

Stat of the day

Serena Williams is 24-3 in Grand Slam semi-finals after today. The last time she lost in the final four of a Major was at the US Open in 2009 when she fell to Kim Clijsters.

Pick of the quotes

"It's slowly sinking in and it's just amazing. The happiness is unreal," said an elated Safarova.

“I felt like I ran out of gas... and she played very very well,” reflected Ivanovic. “I’m really proud of what I achieved these two weeks. I’m aware that there’s still room for improvement and that is the exciting part.”

“I tried and tried and found the energy, I don’t know from where,” said Williams in a brief on-court interview.

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