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French Open 2015 Day 14: Serena rules as Djokovic triumphs

2012 Ladies' Singles Champion Serena Williams
by Alex Sharp
Saturday 6 June 2015

Wimbledon.com's highlights from the fourteenth day of the 2015 French Open at Roland Garros with the women's final and Novak Djokovic up against Andy Murray.

Career slam in tact

Gone in a flash. Andy Murray had raised hopes, had everyone dreaming of one of the best comebacks of all time.

On Philippe Chatrier again after a rain delayed contest, Murray had to try and carry his momentum from Friday, having recovered to 3-6, 3-6, 7-5, 3-3 as the light faded and the storm clouds loomed.

The task appeared insurmountable, especially against a player who was on a 27-match winning streak and had beaten the Scot in their previous seven encounters.

The sun scorched the players on resumption of play and following a pair of holds a piece, it was Murray who turned on the fireworks.

Novak Djokovic kept bludgeoning Murray with relentless groundstrokes but his retrieval skills were simply magnificent. A 32-stroke rally ensued and Murray went 0-30 up thanks to a delicate drop shot before urging the crowd to find their voice.

They did and vehemently supported Murray, hoping to see a fifth set. Djokovic was misfiring at the start and two unforced errors from the forehand wing handed Murray the pivotal break.

Serving for the set Murray was aggressive and accurate, knocking Djokovic off his stride before teasing the world No.1 into another error for a 7-5 finish.

Quite astonishing, the combination of athleticism and mental perseverance had hauled Murray level but the beginning of the decider highlighted why Djokovic has accumulated eight Grand Slams.

An unconvincing service game got the ball rolling but then a barrage of whipped shots hugged the lines and Murray couldn’t cope. Djokovic had instantly raised his level and the Scot hit four errors trying to nullify the Serb’s threat, handing an immediate break for 2-0.

The Djokovic’s expression remained the same, almost robotic. He cantered through the remaining games. Murray was still heroic in defence but his opponent now was mechanically finding the corners.

Murray told the press he had to resort to lobbing up the ball in an attempt to halt Djokovic’s procession in the fifth set, but whether it was at the net, baseline or in the air, his final set was exemplary.

Djokovic broke a beleaguered Murray to go 5-1 and served out for a third Roland Garros final with aplomb.

“It was no different from any other match that we played against each other.  It's always a thriller, always a marathon,” said Djokovic.

“I don't think I was lucky.  I think I was playing some great tennis yesterday.  He found his game late in the third.  I had many opportunities to finish the match in straight sets, but credit to Andy.”

The Serb rushed out of Roland Garros to recover and prepare for a “pretty important match tomorrow,” leaving a devastated Murray to reflect.

The world No.3 finished his clay season with his first two titles on the dirt and only one defeat.

“Yeah obviously like right now I'm upset, but, yeah after Novak, I would say I probably played the best tennis in the major events, in the slams this season.  Also in the Masters Series I have been quite consistent in the ones that I have played,” added Murray.

“My game I think is back close to where it needs to be to winning slams.  Physically I'm back there again... it’s been a good start to the year.”

An exhausted Djokovic is still undefeated on clay in 2015 and only Stan Wawrinka stands in his way of completing the career Grand Slam on Sunday.

The Serb has a 17-3 head-to-head in his favour against Wawrinka but their last four Grand Slam battles have lasted five sets and Djokovic will have to compete for a third day in a row.

“I think I will be fine for the finals,” said Djokovic. “Whatever I have left in me I’ll put out on the court tomorrow.”

Serena reigns supreme

Serena Williams captured an astonishing 20th singles Grand Slam crown by beating 13th seed Lucie Safarova in a turbulent and absorbing final.

Williams, also the 2002 and 2013 champion in Paris, had never lost to her Czech opponent and it showed in the beginning as the world No.1 started in imperious form, swatting away all Safarova could conjure up.

Williams, seemingly fully recovered from sickness that troubled her semi-final, was particularly effective on the return of serve and broke to lead 3-1 after a crunching forehand flew past a stunned Safarova.

The Czech had no answer to the power and poise of Williams, who snatched the first set in half an hour 6-3.

The statistics were against Safarova, as Serena had a 17-0 record when winning the first set in a Grand Slam final.

The contest was becoming a procession when a double break from more destructive winners put the 19-time Grand Slam champion 4-1 into the lead.

However a miraculous collapse from Williams’ serve enabled Safarova to build belief. Three double faults in game six gifted the Czech a lifeline which she willingly grasped.

A comfortable hold ramped up the pressure on a rattled Williams and it told. Again the serve faltered and Safarova pounced to fire herself into contention.

With the scores tied at 5-5 Serena wrestled back the advantage with some pin point returns and broke to serve out for the title. However, once again Safarova roared back with a staggering backhand winner down the line to force a tie-break.

A combination of loose serving from Williams and pulsating winners from Safarova put the 28-year-old into command. Showcasing exceptional defence she closed out the tie-break and sent the final into a decider.

The momentum had well and truly swung.  An eight minute game ended with Safarova stealing the break and she consolidated the advantage with a lightening quick hold.

It was Serena’s turn to mount the comeback now and a hold to love could not have come at a more perfect time.

That provided the catalyst as a rejuvenated Williams returned to her unplayable level from earlier and stampeded through the remaining five games  to write her name into history once again.

On 20, Williams is now just two behind Steffi Graf at the top of the Open Era leaderboard for Grand Slams and currently holds three of the four Majors. ‘Serena slam’ in 2015?

“Oh la la. This is not true! When I was a little girl, in California, my father and my mother wanted me to play tennis. And now I'm here, with 20 Grand Slam titles,” said a jubilant Williams.

“This is very special for me. I've not always been playing very well here, but I'm really happy to win the 20th here. I want to thank the crowd, this is wonderful.”  

The American praised her opponent: “This final was not easy, she played very well and that made a wonderful match. This is great for women's tennis too.”

“It has been a great two weeks here for me - so many emotions and great wins. Serena - you were amazing today, you're a great fighter, so congratulations," said Safarova during the trophy presentation. "Most importantly I had such great support from you fans. It is a great pleasure playing here and I promise I will work harder to get even better. Merci Paris!"

Stat of the day

In the Open Era, Serena Williams becomes the fifth women to have claimed the Australian Open and Roland Garros titles back-to-back: Margaret Smith Court (1962, 1964, 1969, 1970, 1973), Steffi Graf (1988), Monica Seles (1991, 1992), Jennifer Capriati (2001), Serena Williams (2015).

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