Reuters & AP
Lucie Safarova advanced to her first Grand Slam final with a 7-5, 7-5 win over former champion Ana Ivanovic at the French Open on Thursday. The 13th-seeded Czech player, who upset defending champion Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, has not dropped a set in the tournament.
Safarova is the first Czech woman to make it to the final at the French Open since Hana Mandlikova in 1981. “It’s a dream come true, I cannot believe it” said Safarova, having now beaten two Top-10 players for the first time at the same Grand Slam.
Safarova trailed 4-1 and 5-2 in the first set, before finding her stride and reeling off the next five games. She faltered when serving for the match at 5-4 in the second, though, hitting three double faults — including one on match point — before getting broken. “I started a little slowly but I tried to keep up the level and tried to play very aggressive because that was the only way to get a win,” she said. Safarova certainly took risks, hitting 36 winners compared to 31 unforced errors.
She was broken in her first service game as she struggled with Ivanovic’s deep balls early on. But she broke back in the ninth game with a powerful backhand return. Ivanovic then made some sloppy mistakes, including two double-faults as she dropped her serve for the second time, and Safarova converted her first set point.
An ailing Serena Williams stayed on course for a 20th grand slam singles title as she came back from the brink to reach the final of the French Open with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 win against Swiss power hitter Timea Bacsinszky on Thursday. The American, who looked unwell throughout the match, putting iced towels around her neck and against her forehead at changeovers, fell a set and a break down as the 23rd-seeded Bacsinszky peppered the court with backhand winners.
But Williams, who won Roland Garros in 2002 and 2013, dug deep to break back and Bacsinszky cracked, losing 10 games in a row.
Williams closed it out when Bacsinszky sent a backhand long and the world number one will now face Czech 13th seed Lucie Safarova on Saturday. “I have tried everything. I thought if I lose I must fight. I have tried and tried, I don’t know where I found the energy,” Williams told a courtside interviewer in French before a coughing fit ended the conversation. Last year, Williams pulled out of a doubles match with her sister Venus at Wimbledon after appearing disoriented and weak on court when she was suffering from a viral illness. There was no quitting this time, however. Bacsinszky had promised not to be intimidated and she was true to her word at the start of the match. The 25-year-old broke for 3-2 with a quickfire service return winner, leaving a subdued Williams to walk back to her chair at a snail’s pace.
Williams had her only break point of the set in the 10th game, but the Swiss saw it off with a trademark backhand winner.
Bacsinszky then had set points, but fired long on the first and Williams saved the second with a backhand winner down the line.
On the third, the American had her opponent on the ropes, but with the court wide open, she fired a forehand wide.