Williams' defeat of fifth-seeded Sara Errani in the semifinals on Thursday was a Jordan-in-his-prime utter demoralization of her opponent. The world's top-ranked player defeated the upstart Italian, 6-0, 6-1, doing so in 46 minutes, a timeframe usually reserved for basic-cable dramas.
There was no drama to be found in the semifinals.
Williams had 40 winners. Errani had two. Williams was the big, scary jock standing at the end of the hallway while Errani was the scared nerd just hoping to make it to class unscathed. Errani didn't make it to class.
Thursday's triumph was merely the latest entry in Williams' domination journal, one she will look to continue when she embarks on a collision course with Sharapova. The second-seeded Russian has had quite the event herself, coming back from seemingly insurmountable odds every time she steps on the court. Her toughness has brought forth a level of adoration from the French Open crowd that's become a touching story in and of itself this year.
It won't matter. This tournament, as we'll find out in Saturday's final, is about Williams and the story of her historic resurrection to unquestionably the most dominant player in the world—male or female.
A year ago at this time, such a statement seemed impossible.
It was at Roland Garros in 2012 where Williams reached something of a rock bottom in her French Open story. Heading into the tournament with some momentum, Williams was considered among the favorites to solve the red clay—a vexing surface in her career.
Then Virginie Razzano happened. Who, you ask? The unranked French tennis pro who shockingly ousted Williams in the first round of last year's French Open.
With that loss, she had clinched reaching two full calendar years without winning a Grand Slam championship. Her last major triumph had come at Wimbledon in 2010, marking the longest mark of Williams' career since she started winning Grand Slams consistently in 2002. During that timeframe, Williams had suffered a series of health ailments, including multiple foot surgeries and blood clotting in her lungs.
There were other lull periods, some nearly as long as the one between Wimbledon 2010 and 2012, but none felt quite like this. Williams was barreling toward 31 years old, so it was understandable to wonder whether she was done winning majors. Once the first digit of your age is a three in tennis, you might as well be an NFL running back. People are simply counting down the moments until your farewell tour, especially with Williams' health problems.
Case in point: Roger Federer now. Federer is certainly still at the point where the game still has to respect him as being among the greats. But would it surprise anyone if he never won a major title again?
Williams was there a year ago. Now? She's a human cyborg whose game is so flawless that LeBron James is taking notes.
How did Williams get there? She completely rededicated herself to the sport. She got back into top shape, found her service form and regained that scowling competitiveness that makes her one of the most intimidating athletes in this generation. Even before her frustrating exit last year at Roland Garros, folks were talking about how hard she was working to reclaim the top spot. That the distractions had gone Casper and that she was on the precipice of something special.
The French Open loss only seems to have made her work harder, and the results have been legendary. Williams captured Wimbledon, an Olympic gold medal and the U.S. Open to finish off her 2012 season. Her comeback eventually culminated earlier this year, when she became the oldest world No. 1 in history, per the Associated Press.
"I never thought I would be here again," Williams said. "Oh my gosh, I've been through so much. I never thought I would be here."
It seems Williams has found "here" yet again at Roland Garros. It's been over a decade since she's won at the event, a fact that undoubtedly weighs on her mind coming into this tournament. We all know that's the gigantic elephant in the room, that history says perhaps Sharapova, the defending French Open champion, can pull this out.
And yet it feels completely impossible at the same time. Williams will win her third major in the last four events, simply because she's better than anyone else. Seriously. Look at how she and Sharapova compare statistically heading into this match.
Notice how Williams is markedly better in the good things? And how Sharapova has markedly higher figures in the bad ones? That's not an accident. As legendary women's tennis player Chris Evert said to Jim Caple of ESPN, Williams is simply playing a ridiculously high level:
It was the best clay-court match I've ever seen from a woman. I felt it was flawless. She was hitting winners from every angle of the court. Hitting winners from everywhere. Coming to the net. Drop-shotting. Volleying. She kept her concentration the whole game. I thought it was perfect and flawless.
Even with Sharapova putting together display after display of mental fortitude and toughness, there's not much left to fight for. Sharapova is competing for her second-place trophy on Saturday, the only thing left to resolve is the final score.
And that's just fine. Sharapova is still a damn good player, one who will be Williams' fiercest competition at Wimbledon.
There is no competition at Roland Garros. There are mere mortals, getting in the way of the female Jordan in the fourth quarter of her comeback story.
Sharapova may be the most noble of those mortals, but her fate will be no different than the ones who came before.
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