Serena Williams kept alive her hopes of making Grand Slam history in Paris on Friday, but she was again well below her best in a 7-6 (9/7), 6-4 French Open semi-final win over Kiki Bertens. For the second straight day, the 34-year-old American looked out-of-sorts and at times exasperated before finally clawing her way back to stay alive.
She will now play Garbine Muguruza in Saturday’s final with the prize for her being a 22nd Grand Slam title, equalling the Open-era record set by Steffi Graf in Paris in 1999. The fourth seeded Spaniard underlined her fine form with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Australia’s Samantha Stosur.
“The first set was not simple, but she was playing so well,” Williams said. “I need to keep my calm for the final and hope the fans will be with me.”
Williams already looked out-of-sorts in her quarter-final on Thursday against 60th ranked Yulia Putintseva, having to claw her way back from a set and a break down to get through.
And it was another ponderous start from the three-time former winner against her 58th-ranked, opponent, losing the first three points of the match and dropping her serve.
Bertens, who had never made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament prior to Paris, went 2-0 up before Williams opened her account.
The cold, damp conditions were similar to Thursday and the atmosphere was muted on a less-than-half full Philippe Chatrier centre court. Williams was having trouble returning the Bertens serve and she had to save break points on her own to avoid falling further behind.