By Martyn Herman
Serena Williams proved an irresistible force once more as she powered past Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-4 to win the French Open for the second time on Saturday – 11 years after her first triumph.
Defending champion Sharapova threw everything she had at the 31-year-old Williams but came up short as the American became the oldest woman to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup since tennis turned professional in 1968.
Williams, who extended her current winning streak to 31 matches, took her haul of grand slam singles titles to 16 from the 20 finals she has contested.
“It was very difficult,” Williams said. “After 11 years it’s incredible. Thank you to the crowd. I want to come back here and win again. I think I’m Parisienne.”
Sharapova said: “She’s been playing so well throughout the year and throughout the tournament. Congratulations to her. This court has brought me so many nice memories – last year was so special. I’ll be back next year to try to win again.”
The Russian walked on to a muggy Chatrier Court trying to overturn a 12-match losing run against Williams, and things started promisingly as she recovered from 0-40 down in her opening service game and then broke for a 2-0 lead.
Sharapova took heart from some early Williams errors, and a second-serve ace helped her to 40-15 and within a point of a 3-0 lead.
World number one Williams hit back, though, with some thumping drives and broke serve with a solid overhead.
After holding for 2-2, Williams engineered more break points as Sharapova again went 0-40 down, and this time Williams did not let the Russian off the hook, nailing an unreturnable forehand winner that left Sharapova scrambling.
Sharapova refused to be intimidated and dragged herself level at 4-4 when Williams sent a backhand wide.
But there was no respite for Sharapova and she was under pressure immediately as Williams broke serve for a third time, clenching her fist as a forehand winner flew past the outstretched Sharapova.
Williams then held serve to claim the opener after 51 minutes.
Sharapova began the second set at full throttle, bombarding Williams’s baseline, but it was Williams who was calmer, mixing up her game to threaten an early break.
Williams failed to convert two break points at 0-0 but at 1-1 the pressure began to tell on Sharapova, who surrendered serve with a miss-hit backhand into the tramlines.
Four-times grand slam champion Sharapova hung on in the hope that Williams’s level would drop, but the American was relentless in pursuit of more major silverware.
Serving for the championship at 5-4, Williams fixed her stare on Sharapova, fired down an ace, then jabbed away a backhand winner and completed victory with two more aces before dropping to her knees in celebration.