40 LOVE Moments: Serena's First French
Published June 11, 2013 12:00
PARIS, France - June 8, 2002, a Saturday: Foolish by Ashanti was No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100, The Sum Of All Fears was the No.1 movie at the US box office, and - with no foolishness or fear - Serena Williams was winning the French Open, her second Grand Slam title after her 1999 US Open run.
Williams' path to the final was by no means easy - after straight set wins over Martina Sucha, Dally Randriantefy and Janette Husarova in her first three rounds, she was pushed to three sets by then-newcomer Vera Zvonareva, who had qualified and made it all the way to the fourth round in her first Grand Slam. After winning that, Williams dismissed Mary Pierce in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
Jennifer Capriati brought the action in the semifinals, though. Capriati, the World No.1 at the time and champion at Roland Garros the year before, won the first set on Williams, 6-3, and had all of the momentum late in the second set too, storming back from 5-2 down to push it to a tie-break. But it just wasn't to be for Capriati as Williams rolled through the breaker then cruised through, 36 76(2) 62.
Waiting in the final was none other than big sister, Venus Williams, the World No.2. And she not only had a 5-2 edge in their head-to-head at the time, she had also won all three of their Grand Slam meetings in straight sets, and their only clay court meeting in straight sets too - but it was time for little sister to step up on the biggest of stages, and Serena Williams did just that, winning seven straight games from 5-3 down in the first set and then never looking back to win the championship, 75 63.
"I didn't want to be a one-hit wonder," she declared afterwards. "I had to get it again."
The victory didn't just kick off a string of Grand Slam victories Williams herself dubbed the 'Serena Slam' - four Grand Slams in a row from the 2002 French Open to the 2003 Australian Open - but she would clearly be anything but a one-hit wonder in the long run, most recently winning her 16th Grand Slam title just a few days ago, which was only her second French Open title after that 2002 triumph.
During her 2013 French Open run, Williams was asked what she remembered of that 2002 run.
"I don't remember much - I don't really remember anyone I may or may not have played," she said. "I know I played Venus in the final. And I do remember playing Dally Randriantefy - don't ask me why I remember that match. I don't know why. I just remember I played against her going into the final.
"I definitely didn't expect to win, so I think that made me really calm and relaxed going into the final. I felt like, 'Okay, I'm not gonna win this match, but I'm going to go out there and have fun.' Next thing I know I was winning. I won the first set, and I thought I could win the French Open after that.
"So I think I learnt from that. I felt no pressure or anything. I was relaxed. I felt really good."