Serena Aims for Federer After Taking French TitleDanielle Rossingh
Serena Williams won in straight sets against defending champion Maria Sharapova at the French Open for her 16th Grand Slam singles tennis title. Now she’s focusing on Wimbledon and Roger Federer’s mark.
Australia’s Margaret Court is the overall record-holder in tennis with 24 major singles titles, while Federer of Switzerland won a men’s record-extending 17th in London last year. Williams is the defending champion at the world’s only grass-court Grand Slam, which starts in two weeks.
“My goal is to get to 17,” Williams said in an interview at Roland Garros three hours after she’d fired 10 aces on her way to her second title in Paris with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Sharapova.
“How awesome would it be if I could do it at Wimbledon, that would be great,” the 31-year-old American said. “But the competition is really tough. It’s not going to be easy for me, and I’m going to get really serious about my game and get really focused in order to ever catch Roger Federer.”
According to her coaching consultant, Patrick Mouratoglou, the records of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who each won 18 major singles titles, and even Steffi Graf’s tally of 22 Grand Slam championships are also within grasp.
“For Serena, nothing is out of reach,” Mouratoglou said in an interview in the players’ lounge shortly after her win. “If she wants something, it’s very difficult to stop her.”
For now, Williams is concentrating on title No. 17 and nothing more.
“My goal is to get to 17,” said Williams, who leaves Paris with her first French Open title since 2002. “If I get there, my next goal will be to get to 18.”
The championship came a year after she lost in the opening round to then 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano of France. In the days after her earliest defeat in a major, Williams sought the help of Mouratoglou. Williams keeps an apartment in Paris, not far away from his tennis academy.
“When I lose, all hell breaks loose,” Williams said, adding the loss to Razzano had been “a big motivation” in her success since then.
With Mouratoglou, the 42-year-old son of former EDF Energies Nouvelles Chairman Paris Mouratoglou, by her side, she’s won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the year-end WTA Championships and now her first French title in 11 years.
Williams also captured singles and doubles gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics. Her 13th consecutive victory against Sharapova extended her overall win streak to 31, the longest in her career.
“She played strong, she played deep, served really good, served better than I did,” Sharapova said in a news conference.
The 26-year-old from Russia, one of the best returners in the women’s game, said Williams had been “serving harder than David Ferrer when he gets to the final of Roland Garros.”
Ferrer plays the men’s final today against seven-time champion and fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal.
In her last two service games alone, Williams produced five of her 10 aces, hitting shots as fast as 198 kilometers per hour (123 miles per hour).
“She played her best tennis at the end of every set, because she’s a champion,” Mouratoglou said. “She serves three aces in the last game -- 198 kilometers per hour on the match point. It says everything.”
The secret to Williams’s success at the age of 31 is her consistency, according to Sharapova.
“She’s able to come in and produce it day in, day out,” said Sharapova, who hasn’t beaten Williams since 2004. “It’s not like she’s changed something extremely in her game. She’s always had a big serve. It’s just become much more consistent.”
Williams feels that, even at her age, she’s not done improving just yet.
“It’s a big motivation,” she said. “The day I feel that I cannot improve, that’s going to be a problem for me as I’m going to have to really debate whether I should keep playing. But I feel like as of now, I can do a lot of things better. I feel like I can be more fit. I feel like there is still a level of improvement that I can reach.”