PARIS, June 8 (Reuters) - Serena Williams took a stranglehold on the French Open final against defending champion Maria Sharapova on Saturday, recovering from a slow start to win the opening set 6-4.
The American, bidding to win the claycourt slam for the first time since 2002, should have broken second seed Sharapova in the opening game as she went 0-40 ahead but failed to capitalise and was then broken in the following game.
Sharapova has not got the better of Williams since 2004, losing 12 matches in a row, but she took heart from some early errors from her opponent and a second serve ace helped her to 40-15 and within a point of a 3-0 lead.
Williams hit back though with some thumping drives and broke serve with a solid overhead.
After holding for 2-2, Williams, bidding to become the oldest woman to win the title since tennis turned professional in 1968, engineered more break points as Sharapova again went 0-40 down and this time she did not let the Russian off the hook, nailing an unreturnable forehand winner.
Sharapova refused to be intimidated though and dragged herself level at 4-4 when Williams yanked a backhand wide.
There was no respite though for Sharapova and she was under the cosh immediately as Williams broke serve for third time, clenching her fist as a forehand howitzer flew past the outstretched racket of Sharapova.
Williams then held serve to claim the opening set after 51 minutes of play on Chatrier Court. (Reporting by Martyn Herman)