Serena Williams reasserted her dominance in the sport of women’s tennis with a comprehensive victory over Lucie Safarova in the final of the 2015 French Open 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2 for her 3rd French title, 2nd major title of the year and 20th overall major title. Despite illness and having to fight her way through this tournament against many resilient opponents, Williams further cements her place in the annals of tennis history. Cordell Hackshaw
The match had a rather calm opening as everyone wondered what shape Williams would be in for the final. For the past several days, she had been battling the flu which was clearly visible during her most recent practices and matches particularly in her semifinal match against Timea Bacsinszky on Thursday. However, Williams started off well enough and it was Safarova who appeared understandably tentative. The Czech was in her first major final playing against Williams, a 19-time major winner, an opponent she had never beaten in their 8 previous meetings. Safarova was broken in the 4th game as Williams showed her championships experience and took charge of the match early. Williams consolidated the break and raced out to a 5-2 lead, forcing Safarova to serve to stay in the match. Safarova faced a set point on her serve but she save it and made Williams serve out the set at 6-3 in about half an hour.
Williams’ momentum continued into the 2nd set and for a while, it looked like the match was going to be over in under an hour. Williams was up 4-1 with double game points to go up 5-1 and be a game away from her 20th major title. Safarova had come into this match without dropping a set through 6 rounds of play, she was not about to leave this tournament in straight sets. She earned her first break point of the match as Williams double faulted twice in the 6th game. Not only did Safarova break the Williams serve once, she broke it twice to go up 5-4 and force Williams to serve to stay in the set. Williams held for 5-5 and broke Safarova to serve for the match. Down 5-6, Safarova went for broke on all her shots particularly with Williams 2 points away from the match at 30-15. Safarova produced incredible winners with inch perfect accuracy and soon it was 6-6 and a 2nd set tiebreaker was needed. “My first serve abandoned me … Once she saw that I got a little tight, she started playing really a lot better,” said Williams.
Safarova was now in the ascendancy and quickly jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the breaker. One expected Williams to make a comeback at some point but it never happened in the set. Safarova took the breaker 7-2 points and carried this momentum into the 3rd set with a 2-0 lead. “I’m proud that I fought back in the second set, because it was looking like it will be an easy match. Serena was really strong out there. I just pushed myself to step up the level,” said Safarova after the match.
As for Williams, this was a regular occurrence in her matches here at the French Open, being down a set and a break. This was the fifth 3-setter Williams was playing at these championships and battling the flu, it looked as Williams’s chance at the history books was about to closed. However, this is Serena Williams who has found her way back from the brink of defeat so many times. As she did against, Azarenka in the 3rd round, Williams began her comeback and she was unstoppable.
Williams held serve for 1-2 and asked the question of Safarova of whether she could maintain the lead. Up 2-1 and 30-0, Safarova looked as though she was going to handle the pressure well but she lost 4 straight points, double faulting on break point to level the match 2-2. This slight hesitation on Safarova’s part allowed Williams back into the match and made Safarova near look pedestrian across the net. With each game that Williams won, Safarova’s confidence began to dim. “When she was on, she was just serving amazing and going for the returns, pressuring me right away … It’s just hard to do anything with that,” said Safarova.
Williams broke again for 4-2 and held serve for 5-2. Safarova who looked poised to claim her first major about 20 minutes ago up 2-0, was now serving to stay in the match, having lost 5 straight games. “I just couldn’t find any weapon that could stop her. I was trying to mix up the serve, trying to mix up the rhythm, trying to go for risk shots,” said Safarova. The pressure of facing Williams on the other side of the net proved to be too daunting for Safarova. Williams broke the Czech with a searing forehand return of serve that Safarova could not keep in play. Williams won 6-3 6-7(1) 6-2.
This is the first time a woman has captured the first two majors of the year since Jennifer Capriati in 2001. Williams has now won the last three majors stretching back to the 2014 US Open. Speaking on the match, Williams had this to say, “I got so frustrated. I was just so angry at myself. I pretty much gave the match away … I just had to, like, try to pull it together.” Williams had 34 winners and 42 errors including 11 aces and 9 double faults compared to a 16:17 ratio from Safarova. When asked if she would be partying after her win, Williams replied that she was going to bed as she was tired.
Williams has a chance at the calendar grand slam if she can win both Wimbledon and the US Open later this year. She is also 2 major wins away from Steffi Graf’s open era record of 22 major titles and 4 wins away from Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.As for Safarova, she still has a chance at winning a major title in Paris as she will play the final of the women’s doubles with her partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands against the team of Casey Dellacqua and Yaroslava Shvedova on the final day of the tournament.
Shock French Open Date Change Triggers Player Backlash
The change to the grand slam calendar hasn’t gone down too well.
The French Tennis Federation (FFT) has come under fire for a lack of communication after making an unexpected announcement regarding the next grand slam tournament.
On Tuesday a statement was released confirming that the French Open has been delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Which has brought the entire tennis season to a halt. Astonishingly they now intend to hold the tournament between September 20 – October 4, which is just seven days after the conclusion of the US Open. The announcement has caught many off guard with neither the ATP, WTA or ITF yet to publish an official response.
“In order to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in organising the tournament, the French Tennis Federation has made the decision to hold the 2020 edition of Roland-Garros from 20th September to 4th October 2020.” The FFT said in a statement.
“Though nobody is able to predict what the situation will be on 18th May, the current confinement measures have made it impossible for us to continue with our preparations and, as a result, we are unable to hold the tournament on the dates originally planned.”
Whilst it was always highly likely that the date for Roland Garros would be changed due to the ongoing crisis, the way in how it was done has once again highlighted serious communication issues in the sports. Many players have taken to social media to express their frustration that they were not consulted about the decision until it was made public.
“Strong Move by French Open/FFT to move to end of Sept. I thought the powers that be in tennis were supposed to be all about working together these days?” Former world No.1 doubles player Jamie Murray wrote on Twitter.
Jonny O’Mara, who is a top 60 doubles player, also took a swipe at the situation on social media by saying ‘Glad I’m on twitter to see tournament schedules and updates. Been searching my junk mail for days.’ Diego Schwartzman wrote ‘once again we found out on Twitter.’
One of the strongest critics is Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, who is a member of the ATP Player Council. In a post that has since been deleted, Pospisil described the move as ‘madness’ before seemingly calling for a union to be formed. A highly debated topic in recent time among players and those governing them.
“This is madness. Major announcement by Roland Garros changing the dates to one week after the US Open. No communication with the players or the ATP.. we have ZERO say in this sport. It’s time. #UniteThePlayers.” He wrote.
In another tweet, the 29-year-old stressed that his criticism only related to the communication provided by the FFT and there was no other motive.
This is such a difficult time. Everyone is being impacted by this catastrophe. Enhancing communication & working together to find solutions should be the priority. Not going Rogue & making selfish/arrogant decisions to further impact the tour in a negative way. #RolandGarros
— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) March 17, 2020
On the women’s tour, there has also been a reaction from top players. Although instead of words, they have chosen to communicate their opinions via memes.
— Elina Svitolina (@ElinaSvitolina) March 17, 2020
— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) March 17, 2020
Everything is fine. pic.twitter.com/VenGwYSqLw
— Madison Keys (@Madison_Keys) March 17, 2020
It is understood that at least one player had been contacted about the announcement before it was made official. Journalist Eric Salliot has reported that French Open tournament director Guy Forget spoke with Rafael Nadal. Nadal, who is the reigning US and French Open champion, is yet to comment in public.
« Réaction de surprise de la part de l’ATP. Il fallait prendre cette décision au nom de l’intérêt supérieur du tournoi. On ne pouvait pas balayer la saison de terre battue. Ce sera l’été indien. Guy Forget a appelé @RafaelNadal » Signé @bgiudicelli_pr #RolandGarros
— Eric Salliot (@ericsalliot) March 17, 2020
It is understood that the ATP and WTA will likely release a statement tomorrow. Meanwhile, on the same day The All England Tennis Club has confirmed that they are hoping to hold Wimbledon on the set dates (29th June-12th July). Meaning there will possibly be three grand slams on three different surfaces within three months. A situation that may trigger a revolt from players in the coming weeks.
Why Rafael Nadal Doesn’t Want Novak Djokovic To Win Another Grand Slam
The world No.2 also sheds some light on the WhatsApp group the Big Three have.
This week Rafael Nadal has a chance to once again return to the top of the rankings if he has a little bit of luck on his side.
The 19-time grand slam champion returns to action at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Mexico. A tournament he has won on two previous occasions. Nadal is required to win the event once again if he wishes to rise back to world No.1 on Monday. Even if he does that, the Spaniard also has to hope that his rival doesn’t reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships. Djokovic started his campaign on Monday with a straight sets win over Malek Jaziri.
“I always have good memories. I come here (to Acapulco) because I love the tournament, the organization, and the public makes me feel at home.” Nadal told reporters on Monday.
“The love of the people is exceptional and that encourages me to be here another year and makes me very happy. I have the illusion of enjoying Acapulco, it is an important week for me personally, after Australia, this is a test to see how I feel. I hope to be prepared.”
Nadal and Djokovic are members of the prestigious Big Three, who have won the past 13 majors between them. Also in the group is Roger Federer. In their head-to-head Nadal trails 26-29 to the Serbian and has lost three out of their four most recent meetings on the tour. Both men have praised each other on numerous occasions throughout their careers, but do they also secretly want the other to fall?
In Nadal’s case the answer is yes. Reflecting on the recent Australian Open final, the 33-year-old admitted that he wanted Dominic Thiem to win. Thiem had a two-set lead over Djokovic, but lost in a thriller.
“In this world we sometimes live with a bit of hypocrisy.” Nadal explained.
“I have a very good relationship with Dominic, as I also have with Djokovic, but if you ask me if I prefer Djokovic to have more Grand Slams that me, my answer is no.’
“It is a purely professional issue, I do not hide to say that, as if you ask Novak about whether he prefers me to win or Dominic in Roland Garros, Dominic will probably be the answer.’
“This is the reality of the competition, it is not going against anyone or any strange reason. If Djokovic wins, I congratulate him and I go to the next tournament, but if you ask who I wanted to win (the Australian Open), I prefer Dominic. “
At present Nadal is second on the all-time list for most grand slam titles won at 19. One behind record holder Federer and two ahead of Djokovic.
One example of the good working relationship between the Big Three is a Whatsapp group they have. Which was recently revealed to the public by Djokovic, who said he has ‘tremendous respect’ for his two other rivals.
Naturally tennis fans are wondering what is said on that chat and if there are any revelations made. However, it appears that the group isn’t as unique as first through with Nadal shedding further light on it.
“We are not just the three of us in a group. Yes, we are in groups with more people, groups with all of us in the Players Council to be informed of all the news that is happening and that is transmitted there, some other group that we are all three … but not alone.” The Spaniard said.
“We do not have frequent communication, that is, daily, between us, but when there are things that we need to know about each other, congratulations, concerns … no longer in the group, but on a personal level, we usually have no problem writing to us privately. The group is more for professional work issues than for personal issues.”
Nadal will start his Mexican campaign against Pablo Andujar in the first round. He will be hoping to fair better in the tournament than 12 months ago, when he was knocked out in the second round by Nick Kyrgios. Who went on to win the title. Despite the disappointment, the top seed said he doesn’t have a ‘feeling of revenge.’
“I’ve never had a feeling of revenge before a tournament, I don’t think that feeling helps you win more games, but quite the opposite. Revenge makes you not think clearly. Wth serenity, and when it comes to competing, the important thing is to have a cool enough head to give my best level. “ He concluded.
The last tournament Nadal won on the tour was the US Open in September.
Roger Federer Pulls Out Of French Open Following Surgery
The unexpected announcement means the former world No.1 will be out of action for at least almost four months.
20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer will miss the entire clay-court season after confirming that he has undergone surgery on his right knee.
The world No.3 underwent arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday in his native Switzerland following consultation with doctors. A minimally invasive procedure that involves the examination and treatment of the joint. Federer said his right knee was ‘bothering him for a little while’ and that doctors are ‘very confident of a full recovery.’ The 38-year-old also missed six months of the 2016 season due to a knee injury.
In a statement, Federer confirmed that he will not be playing another tournament until the grass season. Ruling him out of the upcoming North American hard-court swing, as well as the French Open. The only clay court tournament he was due to play in 2020.
“My right knee has been bothering me for a little while.” Federer said on social media.
“I hope it would go away, but after an examination, and discussion with my team, I decided to have arthroscopic surgery in Switzerland yesterday (Wednesday).”
“After the procedure, the doctors confirmed that it was the right thing to have done and are very confident of a full recovery.”
“As a result, I will unfortunately have to miss Dubai, Indian Wells, Bogotá (exhibition), Miami and the French Open. I am grateful for everyone’s support. I can’t wait to be back playing again soon.”
Concerns about Federer’s current form started during his run at the Australian Open where he lost in the semi-finals to Novak Djokovic. In Melbourne, the Swiss player experienced issues with his right leg. He described played down the issue as ‘pain and problems’ following his quarter-final win over Tennys Sandgren, which he took a medical time-out during.
“Of course, you want to be 100% to be able to train again, then get ready for hopefully Dubai. Right now it’s only guessing. I’m very happy that I don’t feel any worse than when I started (the match). That’s for me super encouraging.” He told reporters on January 30th,
Nevertheless, Federer has recently been in action. Almost two weeks ago, he took on Rafael Nadal in an exhibition match in South Africa and won 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The clash was in aid of the Roger Federer Foundation, which supports early childhood education in six southern African countries, including South Africa. An estimated $3.5 million was raised, according to the associated press.
Should everything goes to plan, Federer’s next tournament will now be the Halle Open, which he has a lifetime contract to play at unless injured or ill. The tournament starts on June 15th.
It is only the second time in his career, Federer has undergone the knife whilst playing on the tour. The first was back in 2016 when he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
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