Serena Williams, Lucie Šafářová Advance to French Open Final

AP Photo
The Associated Press

World number one Serena Williams and number 13 Lucie Šafářová will face off in the 2015 French Open Final on Saturday. While it is Šafářová’s maidan trip to a Grand Slam final, Williams can win her 20th Grand Slam.

Williams appeared extremely ill in the first set. While her stats are decent, they are nowhere near to what one expects out of her. She walked slow and shuffled her feet during the switches. Her eyes were glassy and half closed. Her powerful serve looked mediocre. During sit downs, she asked for more ice towels. She kept her head buried in them as she sought the shade. When Timea Bacsinszky went up 5-4, Williams asked the umpire if the set was over. She looked very confused.

Bacsinszky played marvelously in the first set. She breezed through the tournament, even besting fourth seed and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, to reach the semi-finals. She served two solid aces and broke Williams once while protecting all her serves. Williams only had one opportunity to break her, but Bacsinszky fired back. She attacked the net, only committed eight unforced errors, and slammed home 16 winners. It really looked like Bacsinszky would continue her Cinderella run through the French Open.

But this is Serena Williams. With the final within sight she was not going to go away. After the match she said she needed to score more winners, which is exactly what she did. Her power serve appeared with six aces and 17 winners. She broke Bacsinszky twice while surrendering to her serve just once. Her face looked better and halfway through the match she let out her signature scream. Spectators cheered her on to motivate her not to give up. Yet, when she sat down, she looked exhausted and on the verge of tears.

It was all Serena in the third set. She broke Bacsinszky three times, scored 12 winners, and won six out of seven 1st serve points. Energy flowed through her as she looked nearly flawless as she flew from one end of the court to the other.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been this sick,” she told ESPN. “I didn’t expect to win that, I really didn’t.”

Šafářová will not be an easy opponent in the final. She defeated defending champion Maria Sharapova in the round of 16 and overcame early mistakes to take out 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic. She went down 1-4 and allowed Ivanovic two chances to break her, but with a swift hit saved her serve to go 2-4. That was all she needed to get back in the race. With slight smiles on her face she broke Ivanovic twice to tie the set 5-5. The pressure went to Ivanovic, who ended up double faulting twice, which put Šafářová up 6-5. On the next game, Ivanovic could not put the volley over the net and secured the set for Šafářová.

The second set was almost déjà vu. Ivanovic went to the net with new confidence, but Šafářová shut her down immediately to go up 3-1. Ivanovic won a few games, but next thing she knew Šafářová was up 5-4 and serving for the match. Her face dropped and the energy slid out.

It was not easy for Šafářová, who almost gave away the set. She double faulted on match point, which put the set at 5-5. Her face filled with worry and her eyes looked anxious. Ivanovic lost too much energy when she went down 4-5 because she could not accept the gift from Šafářová. The break forced confidence in Šafářová, who easily wiped the court with Ivanovic on the last game.

The two women face off on Saturday at 9 a.m. Eastern on NBC.