Thirteen years ago, Serena Williams conquered the Internazionali BNL d'Italia for the first time. But the title represented another big first for her - do you know what it is?
WTA Staff

ROME, Italy - One of the biggest breakthroughs of Serena Williams' career came at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia way back in 2002. Why was it such a breakthrough for her? Well, we'll get to that...

But first let's set the scene. Going into Rome that year, Williams was still in the early stages of her greatness - yes, she had one Grand Slam title to her name, but that was 10 majors before at the 1999 US Open. And she'd never been ranked higher than No.4 - she was No.4 going into Rome, actually.

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Seeded No.4 among a packed field in the Italian capital, Williams had little trouble in her first two matches of the tournament, dropping a total of just six games in straight sets wins against Italian home favorite Rita Grande, 6-0, 6-3, and aggressive Czech qualifier Denisa Chladkova, 6-1, 6-2.

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She then had a few French Open champions to get past - first, future champion Anastasia Myskina:

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And then Jennifer Capriati, the reigning champion at both the Australian Open and French Open:

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Williams got past them both, holding off Myskina in the quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-4, then the No.2-seeded Capriati in a thriller in the semifinals, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. Meanwhile, there was another upset brewing in the other semifinal - No.5 seed Justine Henin took out No.3 seed and fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters.

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Henin had beaten Williams in the Berlin final the week before - it was the rematch Williams wanted...

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And it was the result Williams wanted - she battled past Henin in a tight two-setter, 7-6(6), 6-4.

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For Williams, it wasn't just the first Internazionali BNL d'Italia title of her career, it was actually the first clay court title of her career. "Winning here is pretty important for me, because a lot of people insist that I'm not a clay court player, although I am," Williams said defiantly afterwards. "It makes me feel really good, especially going into Roland Garros. I'm definitely looking forward to doing well there."

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She didn't just win Roland Garros, she Serena Slammed her way to the next four majors in a row.