PARIS – American Serena Williams has tried to master French, as she has finally mastered the French Open again. So after she had served five aces in her last seven service points to beat Russian Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4 in Saturday’s final, and had gone down on her knees and put her head to the clay in celebration, Williams kept up her recent habit of making postmatch remarks to the crowd in the local language.
“I’m incredible,” she said in French.
That is probably not what she meant to say. But for accuracy, if not for her command of a second language, it is hard to argue with the sentiment. It is also increasingly hard to make the case Williams is not well on her way to being the greatest women’s player in tennis history.
With the victory over Sharapova, the top-ranked Williams seized one of the few achievements that had eluded her — a second French Open, to match the one she won in 2002, a tennis lifetime ago. At 31, she has won 16 major singles titles, and appears nowhere near finished, given that she is 74-3 since crashing out of Paris last year in the first round.
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“I definitely — I want to go out in my peak,” Williams said in response to a question about whether she had contemplated retiring in the near future. “That’s my goal. But have I peaked yet?”
After she dropped one set in the two weeks at Roland Garros, that is a terrifying question for her opponents to ponder. Williams is one of four women to win each of the Grand Slam tournaments at least twice — Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova are the others — and the most daunting aspect of the accomplishment is this: If nobody could stop Williams on clay, easily her worst surface, who will do it when she gets to Wimbledon’s grass or the hard court at the U.S. Open? And what might have been if she had not had ankle and back injuries at the Australian Open, where she lost in a quarterfinal?
This was the first time the top two seeds had met in the Roland Garros women’s final since 1995. Sharapova, the defending champion, played well, putting up a much better fight than most had predicted, given that Williams holds a 14-2 career edge over her and has not lost to Sharapova since 2004. But Sharapova forced Williams to play excellent defense, and in the first set, she broke Williams’ serve, the most devastating threat in the game.
No one’s best is good enough right now if Williams is having a good day. And Williams was having a good day, particularly because she was able to wield her serve — she had three aces in the final game, including her fastest of the day, at 123 mph, on match point — and, after a shaky start, to control her forehand.
Sharapova pointed to the ninth game of the match as a turning point, when Williams broke her serve to take a 5-4 lead with a whipped crosscourt forehand.
Williams, who was booed by fans here in 2003, has grown increasingly comfortable on clay and in this city since she began working with Patrick Mouratoglou, a Paris-based coach, after last year’s disaster — so much so that she said she thought she was a Parisian.
That her titles at Roland Garros came so far apart, or that the second came at an age when many players contemplate retirement, is a testament not only to her abundant talent but also to her remarkable will. Williams acknowledged Saturday that her first-round loss last year to Virginie Razzano still rankled her, although it also convinced her she had nothing to lose, so she could relax.
“I really enjoy every moment that I’m out there,” Williams said. “I always said that I felt like I have never played my best tennis.”
• In an all-Spain men’s final Sunday, seven-time champion Rafael Nadal faces David Ferrer.
Nadal is seeking to become the only male to win one of the Grand Slam tournaments more than seven times.