Serena Williams and Lucie Safarova both had early exists this year, with Williams losing to Sofia Kenin in Round 3 and Safarova dropping her doubles opener, and officially retiring. In happier times, they slugged it out over three sets in the final of the 2015 French Open.
After struggling through the first three Grand Slams of the 2014 season, Williams put those disheartening results behind her at the US Open, claiming her 18th career major title. She finished the year on a high note by winning the WTA Finals, then added her 19th Slam a couple of months later at the Australian Open.
When the tour turned to the spring clay-court stretch, Williams slowed down at the warm-up events she played, but got back on track somewhat at the French Open. The American reached the final in Paris—but it was far from easy. Battling illness, the two-time winner was pushed to a third set in four of her six matches.
While Williams was being tested nearly every time out, her surprise opponent in the final, Lucie Safarova, didn’t drop a set over the two weeks—a run that included wins over Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, two members of the top 10, along the way.
Seeded No. 13, Safarova was playing in her first major final, and the 14th overall of her career while world No. 1 Williams was going for her 20th singles Slam title. The edge in experience showed early on as the American took the opener 6-3.
In the second set, it was more of the same as Williams raced to a 4-1 lead. With the title in sight, Williams made some unforced errors, while Safarova stepped up her own game. As Williams served for the championship at 6-5, the Czech broke her to force a tiebreak, which she raced through by a 7-2 score to send the match into a decider.
Safarova kept the pressure on in the early stages of the third set, going up 2-0, 30-15, as she sought her first win in nine matches against Williams. However, after rallying to get back on serve in that game, Williams was reinvigorated and took six games on the trot to capture the championship. And for the first time in her illustrious career, she claimed the first two Grand Slam titles of a season.
With this win, Williams completed capturing each of the Grand Slams at least three times. She accomplished the feat at the Australian Open in 2007, at the US Open in 2008 and at Wimbledon in 2009.
Williams ran her record in clay-court finals to 11-2, with Justine Henin being the only player to defeat her in title matches on the surface..
Safarova’s most recent clay-court final before this came in 2012, when she lost the Charleston championship match to Williams.
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