Serena Williams, the number one American, played her quarterfinal match of the French Open on Court Philippe Chatrier on Thursday afternoon. Her opponent was the young and talented Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan. The match was full of drama and after the young Kazak took the first set and was one point away from serving for the match in the second set, the defending champion seemed on her way out. At the end, though, the nerves got to the Kazak and Williams managed to win the second set and just ran away with the match in the third set, to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-1. In the semifinal, she will face Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands who beat Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 7-5, 6-2 in the second quarterfinal of the day.
Putintseva Shocks Williams in the First Set
Both players held their first service game of the match. Putintseva dealt better with the tough and windy conditions on court and she broke in the third game to go up 2-1 against the defending champion. She consolidated the break in her next service game and increased her early lead to 3-1. Williams, as one would expect, came back with a strong response and won the next three games to lead 4-3. Her young opponent did not let the disappointment of losing the lead get to her and she held in the eighth game to level the match to 4-4.
The American won the ninth game, regained the lead, and forced her young opponent to serve in order to stay in the set. Putintseva rose to the challenge and held again to make it 5-5 and she did not stop there; She came back from 0-40 down in the next service game of the world number one to break and at 6-5, was serving for the first set. The Kazak did not falter and she clinched the set 7-5. The upset was on the cards.
Williams Stays Alive in the Second Set
The 21-year-old Putintseva, in her first quarterfinal appearance in a slam, continued looking impressive at the start of the second set and broke Williams to love in the first game. The American number one fought back and won the next four games to lead 4-1 and at that point, it was looking like she was out of the woods, but Putintseva did not cave; she held to make it 4-2 and got the break back after the world number one double-faulted on break point in the next game. At 4-3, the Kazak was right back in the second set.
In the eighth game, Williams seemed unfazed by the loss of her lead, and quickly went 40-0 up on her opponent's serve but Putintseva saved all three break points and went on to hold and level the set to 4-4. In the ninth game, the Kazak came back from 15-30 down on William's serve to lead 40-30 and was one point away from serving for a huge win over the world number one and a place in the semifinals; but she lost the break point with a backhand unforced error. She got another chance to break in that game but sent another backhand long and Williams held. The world number applied a lot of pressure in the next game in the quest to break and level the match and Putintseva could not cope with it and her nerves failed her; She conceded the set with a double fault and Williams won it 6-4.
Williams Blasts through Putintseva in the Third Set
In the decisive third set, Williams was serving and moving much better and she quickly went 3-0 up. Putintseva fought hard in the fourth game and saved two break points but failed to save the third and the defending champion increased her lead to 4-0. Williams was just 'bullying' her opponent in this set and was two games away from a semifinal spot.
The young Kazak refused to give up and gained a break point, a lifeline point really, in the fifth game but Williams saved it with a massive first serve and held to make it 5-0. In the sixth game, Putintseva was serving to stay in the tournament and avoid a bagel set and she managed to hold and even save three match points in the next game; but it was too little, too late, and Williams converted her fourth match point to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.
A look at the Final Match Statistics
Both players had 63 percent first-serve points in with Williams winning more points behind her first serve (68 percent versus 63 percent for her opponent) and behind her second serve (47 percent versus 42 percent for Putintseva). The defending champion was also more successful at the net, winning 71 percent of her points to only 50 percent for the Kazak. Her ratio of winners to unforced errors was surprisingly worse, -7 against +2 for Putintseva, but at the end of the day she had won 11 points more than her opponent in the match that lasted two hours and eight minutes.