PARIS, Reuters and AP
American Serena Williams won her first French Open when she beat sister Venus 7-5, 6-3 in a nervous and erratic match on centre court on Saturday.
Both players looked jittery in their first Roland Garros final and the clash was a dreadful succession of unforced errors and breaks.
In the whole match, Serena made 54 unforced errors and Venus 47.
Serena broke Venus straightaway and held serve in the next game to take a 2-0 lead. Venus struggled with her first serve but still managed to hold serve in the next game.
But Serena faltered in turn and double-faulted to let Venus back to 2-2.
Experience then seemed to prevail as Venus, just a little bit more consistent than Serena, broke her for the first time to lead 4-2.
Having won four games in succession, Venus seemed to have the upper hand but she was again broken in the seventh game.
But Serena was unable to level the scoring as she again conceded her serve to love, only to break Venus again as the second seed was serving for the set at 5-3.
The match seemed to turn Serena’s way as she took three consecutive games to lead 6-5 and in turn serve for the set.
She at last held serve to win 7-5 on her first set point after 62 minutes of some of the worst tennis seen on centre court.
On a roll, Serena went on to break Venus for the sixth time in the match and held her serve to love to lead 2-0 into the second set.
She broke again to take a 3-0 lead but nervousness returned and Venus earned a reprieve by taking her sister’s serve for 3-1.
A double fault, her ninth in the match, seemed to ruin Venus’s hopes as she lost serve again to trail 4-1.
But the match erratic course continued as the older Williams won the next two games to make it back to 4-3.
But Serena would not be denied victory and finally won 6-3 in 91 minutes on her first match point at the end of arguably the best rally in the match so far. Call it the Spanish Open It’s time for a fiesta.
“I’m going to play with another Spaniard, so I think it’s a party — a Spanish party in the final. So for sure, we’re going to enjoy the match,” said Juan Carlos Ferrero, after advancing Friday to the championship of the French Open against compatriot Albert Costa.
It’ll be the first Grand Slam final for both Ferrero and Costa, who are friends and are tied 2-2 in previous matches.
No. 11-seeded Ferrero had little trouble in his semifinal against a temperamental and inconsistent Marat Safin, beating the Russian, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Costa eliminated the tournament’s third Spanish semifinalist and the best man at his wedding next week, No. 18 Alex Corretja, 6-3, 6-4, 3 6, 6-3.
This will be the third all-Spanish final since 1994. The most recent was when Carlos Moya beat Corretja in 1998.
What’s the secret — Costa was asked Friday — behind Spain’s steady supply of great clay-court players?
“You know Jabugo ham?” Costa replied, straight-faced. “That’s why we fight like this on court. Do you know what it is? You should try it.”
Whatever it is — something in the water, special training or a diet rich in the very expensive Spanish cured ham known as “Jamon Jabugo” — the Spaniards are doing something right.
No. 11-seeded Ferrero, a lanky and aggressive 22-year-old, eliminated seven-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals before polishing off No. 2 seeded Safin.
“It’s a big surprise for me,” said Ferrero, a three-time French Open semifinalist, who sprained his ankle during a practice session early last week. “I thought that I couldn’t play the tournament. But, finally, with the help of the doctor and all my friends, I could.”
Safin’s semifinal performance didn’t hurt. His power serve was off, as was his usually unshakable confidence. He screamed, muttered, threw his racket and made 78 unforced errors. He was so rattled by the third set that he didn’t realize he won the ninth game — until he saw Ferrero sitting in the changeover chair.
“I thought it was 30-all. I was gone,” said Safin, a semifinalist in the last three Grand Slams. “I didn’t feel really comfortable on the court, and I couldn’t find a solution.”
But, he said it was Ferrero’s game that unnerved him most: “He’s very dangerous.”
No. 20-seeded Costa arrived in Paris never having made it as far as a Grand Slam semifinal in 25 previous attempts. He went on to upset two time defending champion Gustavo Kuerten in the fourth round and then Corretja, a two-time French Open finalist.
Their 3-hour, 10 minute semifinal ended with Costa tripping and falling as he chased down a Corretja backhand that went wide. Costa got up, streaked with red clay, and met Corretja at the net with a hug.
“In tennis this is the greatest moment I’ve ever had, for sure,” said Costa, who defeated one friend and now faces another for the championship.
Costa, unlike Ferrero, isn’t looking at it like a party.
“There’s only one match left here,” Costa said. “You have to fight to the death in order to win.”