Battling Serena lands in final

Battling Serena lands in final

American wards off illness to down Bacsinszky; to take on Safarova in title clash

Battling Serena lands in final

Serena Williams’ dream of winning all four Grand Slam titles in the same year is still alive despite her looking all but out on her feet in Thursday's French Open semifinals.

Playing on the hottest day of the tournament so far, the 33-year-old American superstar struggled badly with her physical condition throughout a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 win over Swiss surprise Timea Bacsinszky.

Walking slowly between points and looking thoroughly miserable, it was the fourth time in this tournament that she has had to battle back from the loss of the first set.

But her fighting spirit came through in the end and now only Lucie Safarova, the Czech 13th seed, stands between her and reaching the halfway stage of a calendar-year Grand Slam previously achieved by only three other women -- Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and most-recently Steffi Graf in 1988.It would also leave her with 20 Grand Slam titles.

Safarova, at 28, reached her first Grand Slam final after 12 years of trying, following her run into the Wimbledon semis last year.

She defeated the 2008 Roland Garros winner Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 7-5 in a nervy, mistake-ridden encounter which preceded the Williams’ match.

A late blossomer, whose nice-girl reputation belies a steely determination, Safarova would be best advised not to look too closely at the record books as she has a dismal 0-8 losing record against the top seed and two-time former champion in Paris.

It is a prospect apparently which does not trouble the Brno-born player. Talking before the Williams match ended she said.
“I mean Serena is number one in the world, great player. So whoever will be there, I will just go there and play my game and obviously try and get the trophy.”

In her favour might be exactly what condition Williams will be in when they both get to Saturday afternoon's final.

Coughing and spluttering she was forced to abandon her courtside interview immediately after clinching the win over Bacsinszky after saying just a few words.What she did manage was: “I kept trying to find the energy and keep fighting. I wasn't feeling well.”

She was then seen on TV being comforted and helped away to the locker rooms by her French coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been credited with reviving her flagging career after a shock first round loss in Paris in 2012.

Against Bacsinszky, the 23rd seed who had battled against all the odds to reach her first Grand Slam final at the age of 26, Williams started strongly.

But Bacsinszky wasn't intimidated and broke for 3-2 with a searing crosscourt backhand off a Williams' second serve.

Williams, who went into the tie having lost just three of her 26 Grand Slam semifinals, was clearly suffering in the 29-degree heat.

Her breathing was laboured, she wearily demanded more and more ice-towels during changeovers and was looking increasingly disorientated.

At the changeover, Williams' coughing spurts became so loud that they echoed around the arena courtesy of the courtside microphones.

But somehow she dug deep, retrieved the break and then raced away with the second set before finishing off Bacsinszky in quick time.

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