PARIS: Serena Williams battled illness and fierce heat to reach a third French Open finals on Thursday (Friday in Manila), defeating Timea Bacsinszky to move one win away from a 20th Grand Slam title.
The world number one and Paris champion in 2002 and 2013 was clearly distressed for large parts of her semifinals.
She trailed by a set and a break in the second before racing to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 win, reeling off the last 10 games.
The 33-year-old American goes on to face Czech 13th seed Lucie Safarova, who beat Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 7-5, in Saturday’s finals where victory will put her just two Grand Slam titles behind Steffi Graf’s Open record of 22.
Friday’s result was tough on Swiss 23rd seed Bacsinszky who was making a living washing dishes and working in hotels just two years ago during an injury-enforced absence from the tour.
“I have never felt so sick,” Williams told US broadcaster ESPN.
“I caught the flu after my third round match and have been struggling ever since. I never thought I could win and I didn’t want to go to a third set.
“But I thought that if I was going to lose I had better go for winners. I was so tired and the next thing I knew I was in a third set. I don’t know what happened.”
On her prospects for Saturday’s final, she added: “I just hope I can get better from here.”
Williams has now reached a 24th major finals, having come back from a first-set deficit four times at the tournament.
She was all business as usual in her first two service games, giving up just a single point.
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 labored, she wearily demanded more and more ice-towels during changeovers and was looking increasingly disorientated.