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Serena Fends Off Spirited Sharapova to Win French Open

Serena Williams held off a spirited challenge from defending champion Maria Sharapova on Saturday to win her first French Open title since 2002.

MOSCOW, June 8 (R-Sport) - Serena Williams held off a spirited challenge from defending champion Maria Sharapova on Saturday to win her first French Open title since 2002.

The American recorded a 31st-successive tour victory and inflicted a 13th-straight defeat upon Sharapova with a 6-4, 6-4 win in an hour and 46 minutes at a sunny but blustery Roland Garros.

Sharapova's abysmal record against Williams continues, with the 26-year-old's last triumph coming in 2004.

Meanwhile, it's a 16th Grand Slam title for the 31-year-old Williams, though just a second at the French Open. She beat her sister Venus in straight sets in the 2002 final.

As in most of their other 16 encounters, Williams' power told, the final game a perfect microcosm for the entire match.

Williams only needed one of her two championship points, crashing ace number 10 down the middle to take the title.

Decked out in snazzy black and fluorescent orange, Williams cupped her face with her hands and sank to her knees, gently sobbing at the realization that despite her 31 years of age, tennis can seem to find her no equal.

 Sharapova had raced out of the blocks, taking advantage of Williams' early rustiness to go 2-0 up in the first set. But Williams broke back with a booming ace that gave her the impetus to roll through the rest of the set.

The Russian picked herself up and won a ten-minute opening game in set two, but a few points later a wild backhand gifted a break to the American that saw Williams go 2-1 up.

It kicked off a pattern of grueling rallies that ended with a whimper as simple errors crept into the Sharapova game. Williams was visibly galvanized and ramped up her power game, hitting winners on a whim that demoralized the Russian further.

Sharapova rallied in game five to earn two break points, but Williams mercilessly snuffed out the first with a killer return before the Russian netted the second meekly. Sharapova managed to force the break to stay in touch at 3-2, but it was Williams who remained in the ascendancy, putting away her next service game in the blink of an eye.

Williams breezed through her next service game and appearing to conserve energy when it was Sharapova's turn, taking a 5-3 lead.

Having to hold to remain in the final, the Russian admirably kept her nerve, shooting for the lines in a gutsy effort that was recognized by the crowd on Philippe Chatrier court.

An errant forehand from Williams forced the American to serve for the match with the score at 5-4.

And serve it out she most emphatically did, going 30-15 up with two aces before earning her two match points with an improvised approach shot that kissed the back of the baseline.

Sunday's men's final sees Rafael Nadal face fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.





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