It is three years now since Serena Williams picked up the phone and called Patrick Mouratoglou, then a relatively little-known coach, to ask if she could use the facilities at his academy on the outskirts of Paris.
Serena Williams said that winning her third French Open title and her 20th grand slam crown had been the toughest victory of her career.
If Serena Williams can bagel a fitter, younger opponent in the third set of a semi-final at a slam while appearing to be operating on half a lung and anaesthetised legs – as she did to beat the bewildered Timea Bacsinszky on Thursday – her opponent in Saturday’s final, Lucie Safarova, has no chance.
The real Serena Williams finally showed up on Wednesday, which spells bad news for the other three women remaining in the French Open.
Day nine at Roland Garros might have turned into a rolling earthquake at one point in the women’s draw but it could be judged a passing tremor at the close, Maria Sharapova a battered casualty and Serena Williams a relieved, if troubled, survivor.
After the hullabaloo surrounding his chequered preparations for the French Open, Rafael Nadal continued his relatively serene progress through the opening rounds of the tournament with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov that was every bit as straightforward as the scoreline suggests.
Unlike England’s cricket team Andy Murray has never lost to an Australian. At no point in his untroubled win over Nick Kyrgios here on Saturday did he look like interrupting a sequence of wins that stretched back over 11 matches and six different antipodean opponents. Perhaps Trevor Bayliss should give him a call.
Even when slightly out of sorts, Maria Sharapova is still the most formidable opponent in women’s tennis and Samantha Stosur, whose form swings like a reed in a storm, barely inconvenienced the Russian on her way to the fourth round of the French Open.
The umpires and players at the French Open are locked in a weird waltz – slow-slow, quick-quick slow – over the exasperating issue of time violations for tardy serving, and Andy Murray found himself at the centre of the debate on day five.
Venus Williams has been through most things in her long and illustrious career but she enjoyed two firsts on Friday as she scraped into the fourth round. First she had to go off when standing at match point when the rain of this lovely British summer poured down; secondly she went deeper in a deciding set than ever before, eventually claiming a 7-5, 4-6, 10-8 victory over the rising young Russian Daria Kasatkina, in a battle that lasted two hours 42 minutes.
In a feisty, emotional display in which her mood was often as dark as the skies above, Serena Williams had to dig deep to come back from a set down to defeat her compatriot Christina McHale.
That is it for Wimbledon fairytales this year – unless Sam Querrey can protect a two-set lead and pull off the shock of the year against Novak Djokovic when they return on Saturday.