A disappointed but sanguine Sharapova does the routine of promising to "be back next year" after Williams has addressed the crowd in French — she's really going out of her way to win round a crowd she's had a prickly relationship with in the past.
Williams is looking formidable right now. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova's records of 18 Grand Slam titles look like the next ones on the horizon for her, maybe even this year. After that, who knows? She certainly looks like a player who has rediscovered her appetite for the game and also a way to bring more longevity to her career.
For now she skips up to lift this trophy, beaming broadly and to a genuinely warm reception. That'll do it for me. Thanks for joining me this afternoon. See you next time.
Williams looks overwhelmed
Williams covers her face with her hands after winning a final that managed to somehow be both competitive and yet never really in doubt. Sharapova fought hard and valiantly, and was constantly aggressive on her second serve, but was always under pressure in her service games and as Williams pulled away on her own service in the second set, that was ultimately the difference.
There was talk about Sharapova ending her Williams hoodoo before this match, but ultimately it's been Williams who's ended her Roland Garros hoodoo as she finally gets another title to add to her 15 other Grand Slams. She's still cavorting on the court, as her delighted coach Patrick Mouratoglou looks on.
Williams wins! 6-4, 6-4
Here we go then. Williams serving for the title, 11 years to the day since she last won it.
She looks collected as she steps to the line.
Sharapova stretches to return service on the second point but Williams hits another wild shot for 15-15.
Another straightforward serve for 30-15.
Wide serve and deft chipped return into the corner and Williams has two match points...
ACE! WILLIAMS WINS!
Second set: Sharapova 4-6, 4-5 Williams*
A Williams return goes long and Sharapova takes the first point. At the back of her mind she must be worried at the ease with which Williams is holding her own serve, but she diligently forces Williams deep on the next point, and forces her to send a long lob long for 30-0. Williams sets herself perfectly on the next shot to find a winner into the corner and then a rally ends badly for Sharapova as she sends her shot wide. 30-30.
Wonderfully placed shot into the corner wins the next rally for Sharapova and she has a game point to stay in the championship. But she's off balance in the next rally and Williams patiently waits to wrong foot her for a winner. Deuce.
Sharapova's first serve is wide again. But Williams return on the second is long. Adv Sharapova.
Wild return from Williams ends the rally on the next point and Sharapova survives the game. But now she must face Williams serving for the championship.
Second set: Sharapova* 4-6, 3-5 Williams
Sharapova has two chances left to break Williams serve. Can she do it and give us that rarest of exotic creatures, a third set in a women's French Open final?
A wicked Williams winner gives her the first point and a beautifully placed first serve sets her up for 30-0. Another strong serve and suddenly it's 40-0. I turn to the keyboard, blink and Williams has served another ace to win the game. Sharapova now has to hold her serve to stay in the match.
Second set: Sharapova 4-6, 3-4 Williams*
Sharapova wins the first point on her serve again, but is it too little too late? Now she makes an unforced error to the groans of the crowd for 15-15. Another good second serve point sets up Sharapova for the volley winner. 30-15 and while Williams makes her work on the next point she wins that one too for two game points at 40-15.
Williams pressures Sharapova again to save one of the game points on a rally, and this may be a big point. Good one for Sharapova, who forces Williams wide to hit a forehand from deep into the net. She's still in this set as it heads towards the business end.
Second set: Sharapova* 4-6, 2-4 Williams
If Williams serves to take this game she'll be a break away from serving for the title. Sharapova has been brave so far and especially bold on her second service, but she's not yet looked like turning this round. She needs to start soon.
A late "out" call gives Williams the first point. Then she steps forward on Sharapova's return to push a winner right into the corner for 30-0 and another delicate passing shot for 40-0. Just like that, she has three game points.
Williams concedes the first on an error from a stretched Sharapova return. No mistake on the second as she finds another timely ace to win the game and put the pressure back on Sharapova's serve.
Second set: Sharapova 4-6, 2-3 Williams*
Finally, Sharapova wins the first point on her service after an attractive extended rally ends with Sharapova blasting a forehand winner across the court for 15-0. She loses the next point though, and goes to second serve again on the third. The serve kicks up viciously and Sharapova is able to control the point to go to 3015. How she needs to hold here.
Sharapova seems to find a second wind on the next rally as she hits the ball cleanly round the court to force the point for 40-15. Then she sends in a vicious serve, only to see an equally vicious return whistle past her. 40-30. And then Williams hits a deep forehand return on the run to Sharapova's baseline to force another point and we're back at Deuce on Sharapova's serve...
...Sharapova takes the advantage on the next point and then gets the better of Williams on a baseline rally to hold again. Though after what looked like a welcome straightforward hold was made into a test again.
Second set: Sharapova* 4-6, 1-3 Williams
Sharapova must be frustrated to know that she's been in this match at moments but she has been under intolerable pressure on her own serve. She's saved a lot of break points and won breaks of her own, but ultimately has been playing uphill most of the way. Now she faces the Williams serve again.
A second serve is returned into the net for 15-0. Now Sharapova is pulled round the court again, to no avail, as Williams takes that point too. Williams strength looks to be telling right now. A stretched Sharapova backhand flies long and it's 40-0, then a vicious wide first service can only be lofted back for Williams to make the simplest of volley winners.
Second set: Sharapova 4-6, 1-2 Williams*
Williams charges in to the net to put away a low winner and wins the first point on Sharapova's serve. A second serve on the next pointsets up the briefest of exchanges and then Williams whips another beautiful forehand just over the net at an angle for 0-30. Sharapova pulls one back on another second service, and then faults yet again, but Williams return on her second serve is just out and we're back at 30-30. Sharapova sends a deep ball that looks like a winner only for Williams to send a deep backhand of her own to force a break point, which she immediately converts. First break of the second set and Sharapova is really in a hole now.
Second set: Sharapova* 4-6, 1-1 Williams
Both players are at the net trying deft drop shots on the first point, but it's Williams who finds the lobbed winner for 15-0. She's back at the net again on the next point but can't find the winner and Sharapova sends a forehand past her for 15-15. You get the feeling that Sharapova is at absolutely full stretch while Williams may have another gear. A Sharapova return is just long and it's 30-15. And then a serve kicks out wide to set up a simple backhand winner for Williams for 40-15. Sharapova tries to deceive her with a soft shot over the net on the next point but Williams is quick over the ground to get to it and that'll be the game.
Second set: Sharapova 4-6, 1-0 Williams*
Error on the first point of her service game yet again from Sharapova, and she quickly loses the second point. She's been in this match so far and can't let the disappointment of the first set distract her. Some work to do though at 0-30. Beautifully felt shot by Sharapova drops just inside the baseline on next point and she takes the point on an extended rally 15-30. Then, ugh, another double fault and she's facing another two break points. 15-40.
A couple of shots on the line from both players, but Williams' shot is just wide and it's one break point saved. And now Sharapova finds another first serve for Deuce on a wide return, only to undo her good work with a poor shot on the next point. Yet again she digs deep though and an extended rally moves all over the court before a Sharapova deep slice forces Wiliams to hit the ball into the net and we're back at Deuce.
But again Williams is relentless on the next point and Sharapova is forced deep on her backhand and can only hit a weak shot into the net to set up another break point. She wins the next point as we come up to the hour and we're all square in this opening game of the second set again.
Williams, playing within herself, takes the next point on another unforced error from Sharapova, who's been a little bit sloppy right now, as determined as she is. Yet again Sharapova bites back and she hits an elegant winner down the line then finally gets a game point on the next point as Williams return hits the net...
...and now Sharapova wrongfoots Williams to put a winner away to take the game, having saved five break points in that game. That'll help her.
Williams takes the first set 6-4
So after an engrossing first set, Williams is serving for the set after Sharapova dropped her own serve yet again. Sharapova at least knows she's had the breaking of Williams in this set. Can she do it at this crucial juncture. She gets to Williams first serve...just, but her return flies into the crowd. 15-0. Now she hits a basic rally shot into the net. 30-0. Williams can sense the moment and fires another ace in. Three set points...
Sharapova saves the first one after a Williams forehand falls short and is put away tidily. 40-15. But Williams forces her wide on the next point and that will be the set. Williams wins the first set
First set: Sharapova 4-5 Williams* (*denotes next server)
Well this one is simmering quite nicely. Yet again Williams takes the first point on Sharapova's serve, as her opponent nets with Williams rushing the net. Sharapova bites back on the next point and then we have the best point of the match as she tries to repeatedly force Williams back, before Williams hits her 11th forehand up the line and forces the error, then another one. Two break points again and Sharapova right back under pressure...
Again Sharapova goes to her second serve, but on a brief rally Williams quickly finds a whipped forehand winner to the corner and breaks straight back.
First set: Sharapova* 4-4 Williams (*denotes next server)
Good service return from Sharapova forces some neat backhand improvisation from Williams and she controls the point for 15-0. but Sharapova returns well again for 15-15. That just seems to annoy Williams though, as she hammers another ace down the middle 30-15. But Sharapova digs in with a nice forehand crosscourt shot that Williams can only return wide. 30-30. And then Williams is forced into another forehand shot into the net from deep to give Sharapova a break point.
Sharapova adjusts well on a return to send a spinning shot deep into Williams half of the court, and she tries to do too much with her own shot and sends it long. Sharapova breaks back!
First set: Sharapova 3-4 Williams* (*denotes next server)
Sharapova opens up well enough in the next game ie she doesn't double fault and takes the opening point. Another big second serve takes her to 30-15 and she takes the next point to to give her some much-needed breathing space on a service game. 40-15. A wild first serve on the next point, but another aggressive second serve forces Williams to return into the net and that will be game Sharapova. She needed that game after four successive Williams' games.
First set: Sharapova* 2-4 Williams (*denotes next server)
So Williams leads for the first time (if you don't count the three break points she held in the opening game). Can she consolidate here? First blood to Sharapova as the wind seems to carry a Williams return long for 0-15. But then she makes an error of her own and Williams is back at 15-15. And then an innocuous looking second serve is returned back into the net by Sharapova for 30-15 and Williams presses home the advantage with another ace for 40-15. Sharapova finally hustles into action with some good speed across the ground to pull one game point back, but her return on the next point is long and Williams wins a game rather too comfortably for Sharapova's fans' liking.
First set: Sharapova 2-3 Williams* (*denotes next server)
Another double fault to open Sharapova's service game and she rolls her head in disgust at herself. Williams bides her time on the next rally and gets her reward as Sharapova nets from deep. 0-30. On her second serve on the next point, Sharapova plays it safe and is punished — Williams return is pushed back long by Sharapova and she must fight against three more break points.
Williams comes to the net on the first and has a simple touch for a winner, but the drop volley is unaccountably poor. A let off for Sharapova. 15-40.
Another second serve, and a net deflection on the return sets Sharapova up to win the point. 30-40.
Again Sharapova faults on her first serve. But this time her luck runs out. Williams returns her second serve wide and breaks again. Only so many times you can give her three break points and get away with it...
First set: Sharapova* 2-2 Williams (*denotes next server)
That sudden addition of another gear for Williams at 15-40 in the last game saved her from serving at 0-3 down in this game. As it is she can draw level here. She hits the net with a sliced forehand on the first point though, for 015. Irritated, she serves an ace on the next point. 15-15. And in another baseline exchange Sharapova replies long to make it 30-15. Now both women exchange stinging shots on the next point but Williams gets to the net first and forces an error 40-15. Sharapova wins the next point but an exquisite wide serve from Williams leaves Sharapova just able to return the ball softly at a stretch and Williams puts it away to tie up the match.
First set: Sharapova 2-1 Williams* (*denotes next server)
Sharapova immediately double faults back on her serve, then goes to second serve on the next point. She serves a let and just needs to settle a little here. She does and forces Williams deep again to send a shot wide for 15-15. A straightforward point gives Sharapova a 30-15 advantage and then she digs up another second serve ace for 40-15. That's been the story for her so far - aggression on her second serve. Suddenly Williams releases what looks like a pent up snarl of a forehand and Sharapova can only net her return for 40-30. And then with Williams off balance Sharapova makes an error and sends her would-be winner wide. Deuce.
A vicious return from Williams skews off Sharapova's racket. The ball's probably just about landed. Rattled, Sharapova serves up another easy volley winner for Williams in the next exchange and Williams breaks back.
First set: Sharapova* 2-0 Williams (*denotes next server)
Williams starts her service game confidently and is back to the early stages of the first game as she pulls Sharapova round the court on the first point, but then she nets a sloppy return to make it 15-15. She goes to second serve on the next point and gives Sharapova an easy enough return that Williams can only send back long 15-30. And then Sharapova finds a backhand that forces Williams off balance and she hits another return long. 15-40 and two break points for Sharapova. Well then.
Williams looks to be in control of the rally on her second serve, but then she tries to go cross court and sends another ball wide and from a dreadful start Sharapova has a break and is up 2-0!
First set: Sharapova 1-0 Williams* (*denotes next server)
Williams pulls Sharapova round the baseline to force the error for 0-15. Then another vicious return makes it 0-30 and instantly Sharapova is in a bit of trouble. A rather weak first serve on the third point that Williams whips back and Sharapova can only net her return. Three break points...
Sharapova gets her second serve in on the first point and Williams nets the return 15-40. Another second serve, another good one and Williams reply flies beyond the baseline 30-40. Better second serving than first serving so far for Sharapova, but now she finds a vicious ace down the middle for Deuce. Williams digs out a wonderful backhand to the opposite corner to take advantage on the next point though, but Sharapova finds a good strong serve to stay in the game on the next point and Williams is off balance as she tries to return the next point and now Sharapova has a game point, which she converts with another strong first serve. Game Sharapova. Fascinating start.
Sharapova to serve
Still warming up
Tum-ti-tum-ti-tum... A couple more snippets for you...
Williams is 42-2 this year, which is rather similar to the number of winners she (40) and Errani (2) had in that semi.
Sharapova has already beaten someone with a career winning record over her in Azarenka, in her semi. Can she do the same here?
And right on cue, here's Gary Naylor via email:
Serena is hard to love, but she's easy to admire. Six Slams before Federer had even one. And still at it now.
Warm ups just finished. This time we really will be under way in a moment...
Photo ops, coin tosses, polite applause, warm ups etc.
We'll be under way in a couple of minutes. For now the players are lofting the ball back and forward to each other with considerably less malice and velocity than they'll be doing very soon.
Players are on the court
Both players out on the court. Williams in her luminous orange headband for those interested in these things. She looks very focused. Sharapova looks a little tense as she bounces on the spot on her side of the court.
Slightly cloudy day in Paris, though it's a fairly bright, if windy, day.
Couple more stats. It's the first time since 1995 the top two women in the world have played for this title. And it's 11 years to the day since Serena won this title for the first and last time.
Time to stretch...
We'll be underway very soon. In the meantime, don't forget to send your tweets to and emails to [email protected]
What has made the difference with Williams this year?
Williams rapprochement with Paris may have something to do with a change in her preparation of late. A lot of the credit for her recent form has been laid at the feet of the French coach she’s been working with, Patrick Mouratoglou, who in a recent ESPN article described her revised approach to the game as she has matured:
I think for a long time Serena really believed that her best was better than anybody's, so she didn't have to worry about anybody else," Fernandez said. "But as you get older, you start to look at what kind of an advantage you can get here and there. Andre Agassi did it, as well, in his 30s, and it paid off, and it's paying off for Serena. She's eager. She's determined. There is no sign of her slowing down any time soon.
In the same article, Chris Evert described Williams' semi-final performance as the finest performance she had seen from a woman on clay. Sharapova may be left hoping her opponent has peaked too early.
We love Paris (sort of)
Since her extraordinary 2002-2003 run, when at one point she held all four Grand Slam titles, Williams has never quite reached the same heights at Roland Garros. In fact her semi-final appearance at this tournament was the first time in a decade she’d made it that far — and she infamously crashed out in the first round last year to Virginie Razzano.
In truth that was just the latest of a sequence of underwhelming departures from the French Open for Wiliams: Katarina Srebotnik in the third round in 2009, Svetlana Kuznetsova in the 2009 QFs, Sam Stosur in the QFs in 2010 — decent players but not the first names you’d think of for a sequence of tournament ending defeats for Williams. Williams insists that she “always felt really good here” in Paris, though it’s sometime felt as if the lingering distaste from her controversial 2003 exit (when angered Williams to the point where the crowd booed her for her reaction after the match) has rather affected the tenor of her subsequent experience here. But she’s been remorseless again in this past year and this might be the year for her to come full circle on her relationship with Roland Garros.
Sharapova meanwhile, won her title last year despite a long struggle with clay that once saw her memorably describe herself as “a cow on ice” on the surface.
In fact one of the subplots of Sharapova’s semi-final against Azarenko this year was the latest instalment of her opponent’s ongoing attempts at metaphorically capturing her own struggles on clay, having gone from being “not married to clay” last year, to “I still don’t have a ring on my finger…But I feel like clay and I made a step forward. We are moving in together.” After losing 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to Sharapova, Azarenka now has a year to contemplate why clay always leaves the toilet seat up and never makes time to hang out with her friends.
As self-deprecating remarks go however, it’s clear that “cow on ice” is the stuff of champions — though you can’t fault Azarenko’s sprawling literary ambition.
The Errani semi-final was a brutally effective dismantling of the number five seed, who was made to look like a wildcard qualifier, as Williams hit 176 winners, while dropping only one game, and winning in 46 minutes.
Williams has been in cruise control in this tournament — not giving up more than three games in a set until the fourth round and winning every game other than the quarter final against Kuznetsova in straight sets. She’s been coy about what the main difference has been this year other than saying “I didn’t lose in the first round!” at a press conference this week. But that volume of winners versus unforced errors made the difference against Errani, and if she clicks it may be the difference here.
Resident Guardian Cliff Richard, Martin Pengelly (possibly applauding politely and offering to lead community singalongs of songs noone had heard of in an empty Guardian office).
On a side note, I’m strictly neutral of course, but a 46 minute work day sounds appealing to me, so I’d be happy to see either woman put on a scintillating display of efficient power/subtlety today, allowing me to enjoy their joy and mine at being able to clock off for some barely earned lunch (cue a rain-delayed baseline trudge through the day, knowing my luck).
The defending champion hasn’t had it all her own way on her path to this year’s final, dropping sets in the quarter and semi-finals, and indeed looking in all sorts of bother with 20 unforced errors in the first set of that quarter final, en route to a 6-0 whitewash in that set. Yet that game also showed the tougher side of Sharapova’s character, as she dug in to win the match 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 – seeing off a brief rally from Jakovic in the second with big forehands and outworking her quicker opponent.
Sharapova defeated 3rd seed Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals. Again she was taken to three sets, though this was also the round where Sharapova began to find her aces – 12 in all compared to no more than four in previous rounds, though she also double-faulted significantly more than she had done in previous rounds. Sharapova would love a simple repeat of the form that made her only the tenth woman (sixth in Open era) to win a career Grand Slam last year, when she eased past Sara Errani (6-3, 6-2), but is a different proposition, whatever surface they’re meeting on — Williams’ own destruction of the hapless Errani in this year’s semi-final (6-0, 6-1) should remind Sharapova of that. She certainly can’t afford to give Williams the kind of head start she gave Jakovic.
Here’s on the semi-final win over Azarenka.
Welcome to the French Open final between defending champion and number one seed and, well, overwhelming favourite, Serena Williams.
Can Sharapova stop an imperious Williams from winning her second French Open after an 11 year wait? For all that Sharapova is the defending champion it’ll be a big test of character — she’s famously lost 12 straight against Williams since beating her at Wimbledon in 2004 and is facing a player who is in formidable form. Sharapova is not short of self-belief however, and she’s making all the right noises about today’s match-up — or at least some variation on those screams she makes on first services.
And of course this is a final, and anything can happen in a one-off and especially on a surface neither woman is wholly comfortable on. But this is still a big ask for Sharapova, who has won just three sets in that nine year run of 12 losses to Williams.
Still, if Sharapova needs some encouragement, beyond the fact that she is, in fact, still the champion, here’s a little reminder of another final the two women played...
We’re due to start around 3pm local time in Paris, which is... (ponders timezones; wonders if the US and UK are in that weird moment in the year where there’s only four hours difference or the usual five, and what that means for Paris; gives up) ...in about half an hour.
I’ll be back shortly with a little more build up. In the meantime get your thoughts, predictions and first tweet percentages coming in to , or scurry across the keyboard like a guilty ball boy to send longer messages to [email protected] and let’s hope we’re in for a treat.
Graham will be here from 8.30 ET/2.30pmBST.
In the meantime read Kevin Mitchell's preview.
Maria Sharapova ready to end her Serena Williams hoodoo
Vitas Gerulaitis famously said after beating Jimmy Connors in 1980 to end a run of 16 defeats against the American: "Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row."
It was oft-quoted here on Friday, as we contemplated the fate of against in the final of the on Saturday. But the Russian's mien rarely encourages levity, so she goes to the scene of her daunting examination not with a light step but more like a stubborn Marie Antoinette, determined rather than buoyant about her chances of prevailing against the odds. She wants not only to keep her crown but to end a sequence of 12 losses against the world No1. It is the most unenviable assignment in .
Sharapova was guarded on Friday but did admit she is trying not to think about her history against the most formidable presence in the women's game.