Female world number one, Serena Williams has progressed to the French open finals after a hard fought 7-6, 6-4 victory over Kiki Bertens.
Bertens, whose ranking will zoom upwards from 58 in the world, has had a grinding schedule of 18 matches without a proper rest, the last 12 of them wins in singles, and five very good performances to get her to the semi-finals here, including her first-round defeat of the Australian Open champion, Angelique Kerber.
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After 38 minutes, she got a break of luck and serve. A forehand clipped the net kindly for her, and a drop-shot left Bertens stranded and stooping in pain. She hit long and they were back on level terms.
Bertens held comfortably and they went to the tie-break. At 2-3, Bertens bent double again, unable to reach a wide forehand. Her legs were clearly giving up on her, but she never lost her bright demeanour. Williams led 4-2 at the change and, when she struck her final, vicious forehand hard into the dirt, she let out a cry that sounded like a mix of celebration and relief.
There was little in it until mid-set, when Williams saved a couple of break points in a tight deuce struggle then hit ferociously through the Dutch player’s static defence to go 4-3 up. After she held with her fifth ace, a relatively modest 97mph down the middle, Bertens had to save three match points in the ninth game. Williams got a fourth match point on her serve and Bertens hit long. It was all done in an hour and 38 minutes of grim intensity.