PARIS, France - She may be off the tour at the moment, but we can never get enough of Serena Williams - and Thursday is a big anniversary for the 23-time Grand Slam champion, as it’s the 15th anniversary of her first French Open in 2002, which was also the first leg of her first Serena Slam.
A few weeks earlier, Serena established herself as a force on clay with her first title on the surface in Rome. “A lot of people insist I’m not a clay court player, although I am,” she said after beating Justine Henin for the title in the Italian capital. “I kind of grew up on clay a little bit. So it makes me feel really good, especially going into Roland Garros. I’m definitely looking forward to doing well there.”
And do well she most certainly did, powering through to the semifinals on the terre battue for the first time in her career, and then taking out the defending champion - and one of her toughest match-ups - Jennifer Capriati, 3-6 7-6(2) 6-2, to reach the final. Waiting for her there was her sister, Venus, who at the time had four times as many majors as her, four to one - but Serena outdid her too, 7-5 6-3.
On June 8, 2002, Serena won what is largely considered the most grueling major, Roland Garros.
“Hopefully we can build a rivalry and do this a lot,” Serena said of playing Venus in the final.
“Make a legacy, then retire champions.”
Her first French Open title came nearly three years after her first Grand Slam title - the US Open in 1999 - with Venus bringing home four majors in between. But Serena was determined to win again.
“I didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder,” she said. “I had to get it again.”
Here are the last few games of the final:
And - this is real - “Stach Stach” by the Bratisla Boys was the No.1 song in France at the time:
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