11 Years Later, Williams Back in French Open Final

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It felt like a routine first-round match for one of the sport’s greats against a qualifier or wild-card recipient ranked somewhere in the 200s, not someone ranked No. 5 and a semifinalist at three of the past five major tournaments. Errani’s also an accomplished doubles player, having won three of the past four Grand Slam titles in that event.

“I really believed I had a chance and I was trying to fight,” said Errani, now 0-6 against Williams. “Maybe on the outside, people will think that’s not true. But I know that I tried, right until the end.”

Made no difference. Moratouglou thought one reason Williams was so terrific was what happened Tuesday in the quarterfinals, when she was pushed to three sets by 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova after having lost a total of 10 games through four rounds.

“It was good for her to feel danger for a moment,” Moratouglou said.

Sharapova certainly dealt with plenty of tension against Azarenka, the winner of the past two Australian Opens.

Good as she was in the first set, Sharapova was shaky in the second, and it took her a while to straighten things out after a 35-minute rain delay that preceded the third. Up an early break, Sharapova double-faulted four times in a single game to make it 2-all. Serving for the match the first time, at 5-2, she let four match points slip away, then double-faulted on the last two points.

Finally, at 5-4, she steeled herself, serving out the victory at love, punctuated by her 12th ace.

“I did the job,” Sharapova said. “I just hope that I can improve for the next one.”

Probably needs to, the way Williams is hitting the ball.

While Williams has won five titles at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, and four at the U.S. Open, the slow red clay of the French Open has given her trouble through the years. It slows up her big serves and big groundstrokes enough to aid opponents. The footwork is also more difficult than on other surfaces.

After beating her sister Venus in the 2002 final, then making it to the semifinals a year later, Williams went through a drought in Paris. Four times, she lost in the quarterfinals. Once, in the third round. A year ago, she lost in the first round to a woman ranked outside the top 100, Williams’ only exit at that stage in 51 career major tournaments.

“She was so mad,” her mother said Thursday.

Following that setback, Williams stuck around Paris — she owns an apartment in the city, and she’s been wowing the locals these two weeks by conducting on-court interviews in their language — and practiced at Moratoughlou’s tennis academy in France.

In the last 12 months, Williams is 73-3, including titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the London Olympics, playing as well as she did back when she pulled off her self-styled “Serena Slam” in 2002-03 by earning trophies at all four major tournaments in a row.

“I’m still here,” Williams told the crowd in French, “11 years later.”

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