Serena Williams won a second French Open title 11 years after her first with a convincing win over defending champion Maria Sharapova.
World number one Serena Williams, 31, was pushed at times but took control midway through the first set, winning 6-4, 6-4, in one hour and 46 minutes.
Serena Williams has now claimed 16 Grand Slam singles titles, moving her to within two of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, who have 18 each.
With an unbeaten run that stands at 31 matches, Serena Williams will be strongly favoured to add to that tally at Wimbledon next month.
“Today, when I won, I was trying to win the French Open. I wasn’t trying to get to number 16,” said Serena Williams.
“I think it’s really special. I feel like I definitely want to continue my journey.”
Maria Sharapova had come into Saturday’s final promising to “try something different” after failing to beat Serena Williams in their last 12 matches, stretching back to 2004.
Key to the Russian’s hopes was defending a serve that has been plagued by double faults in recent times.
At 0-40 in the opening game, things already looked bleak for Maria Sharapova, but she dug in and fired down an ace and one terrific second serve as she saw off four break points.
The second seed took that momentum into the following game to break the mighty american serve, and looked well set in the next at 40-15 – before Williams sparked into life.
A heavy forehand winner helped her back into the game and when she thumped away a smash on break point, Serena Williams let out a “come on!” that was the equal of Maria Sharapova’s early efforts.
Serena Williams won a second French Open title 11 years after her first with a convincing win over defending champion Maria Sharapova
Four games in a row put Serena Williams in command at 4-2, but Maria Sharapova showed the grit that has taken her to four Grand Slam titles as she battled her way back to 4-4 in some fierce baseline exchanges.
With the pressure on, Serena Williams raised her intensity still further and produced the kind of hitting that even Maria Sharapova cannot live with, forcing the Russian into a forehand error in game nine before serving out the set after 51 minutes.
That was five minutes longer than Sara Errani had managed to delay Serena Williams in their entire semi-final, and Maria Sharapova continued to cling on gamely.
She saved five break points in a gripping first game of the second set but, unable to trouble Serena Williams’ serve, she found herself under pressure again moments later.
Serena Williams proved just how much she has improved her movement on clay as she slid out wide for one defensive backhand on the way to breaking in game three, and she would not relinquish the advantage.
The 15,000 spectators in the main Chatrier stadium cheered Maria Sharapova as she held serve from 30-30 with defeat looming, but she was not about to be given a reprieve by her opponent.
Serena Williams demonstrated once again that her serve is the best shot in the game, firing down an ace to secure the title and dropping to her knees in celebration.
Maria Sharapova said: “She played a great match. She played strong, she played deep, served really good; served better than I did. She took her chances.”
US champion Serena Williams couldn’t hide her glee after storming to Olympic victory against Russia’s Maria Sharapova and celebrated with a crip walk.
After routing Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1, Serena Williams showed off some impressive dancing skills on Wimbledon’s grass centre court.
“I don’t think I’ve ever danced like that,” Serena Williams said.
“I don’t even know where the dance came from.”
However, Serena Williams certainly had plenty to dance about – today’s medal was her first Olympic gold in a singles match and means she has achieved a career Golden Slam.
Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova easily and finished off the match by serving two aces. She jumped for joy before performing her little victory dance as her sister, Venus Williams, watched on grinning.
“I didn’t think it could get better than winning Wimbledon,” Serena Williams said as she came off the court.
Serena Williams wins first singles Olympic gold after beating Maria Sharapova
In an incredible display of prowess, Serena Williams served three aces in the opening game, broke Maria Sharapova’s serve in the second game before racing on to win the match.
Serena Williams, the fourth seed, beat the third-seeded Russian on the same Centre Court where she took home her fifth Wimbledon championship last month.
Since losing to a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova at the 2004 Wimbledon final, 30-year-old Serena Williams has now beaten Sharapova eight consecutive times.
Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have won all four Grand Slam titles during their careers but both were going for their first Olympic gold in singles today.
Serena Williams is scheduled to play a doubles semifinal match with her sister Venus on Saturday. The two won Olympic doubles gold in 2000 and 2008.
“Whether I win or lose, that’s not the big deal,” Serena Williams said before today’s game. She defeated world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-1, 6-2 on Friday.
“The big deal for me, USA is guaranteed another medal. I’m guaranteed to just go out there tomorrow and have fun. That’s all I can do.”
Roger Federer, who has won 17 majors, also has a chance at a career Golden Slam when he plays for the gold against Andy Murray on Sunday. He beat Juan Martin del Potro in the longest best-of-three set match of the Open era, at 4 hours, 26 minutes, while Murray ousted Novak Djokovic.
“Roger, me and Maria. The odds are good,” Serena Williams said about the opportunities to get a career Golden Slam. Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal, who withdrew from the London Olympics because of a knee injury, won all four Grand Slam titles as well as Olympic gold in different years.
Rafael Nadal won a record seventh French Open title after beating Novak Djokovic with 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5 in a rain-affected final.
Rafael Nadal, 26, resumed leading 6-4 6-3 2-6 1-2, but his uncharacteristic wobble late on Sunday had fuelled Novak Djokovic’s belief.
The Spaniard broke back in the first game of the day however, and then piled pressure on an unsettled Novak Djokovic.
The Serb finally folded with a double fault to hand Rafael Nadal an 11th Grand Slam.
Having drawn level with Bjorn Borg on six Roland Garros titles last year, the victory gave Rafael Nadal sole ownership of the landmark, and he is likely to have plenty of opportunities to stretch further clear.
Rafael Nadal won a record seventh French Open title after beating Novak Djokovic with in a rain-affected final
The only three men to have more Grand Slam victories – Roger Federer with 16, Pete Sampras on 14 and Roy Emerson on 12 – are now in his sights.
The crowd had returned to Court Philippe Chatrier entertaining the possibility that they may witness a different piece of tennis history.
Novak Djokovic, aiming to become only the third man in history to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously, seemed to have the upper hand on his rival when Parisian drizzle had forced them off on Sunday.
Rafael Nadal led a precariously-poised contest 6-4 6-3 2-6 1-2 overnight, but, having been broken early in the fourth, he had looked ill at ease on the court he has made his own.
The Spaniard had surrendered eight successive games and grew increasingly irritated by the wet conditions underfoot before tournament officials called an end to proceedings.
With the chance to reassess his position and resume in dry, if cloudy, conditions the world number two emerged reenergized.
Novak Djokovic’s hopes of becoming the first man to beat Rafael Nadal on clay after losing the opening two sets immediately dimmed as Nadal toppled his serve in the opening game.
Rafael Nadal’s body language had spoken volumes on Sunday and, after the Serb’s forehand down the line was snagged by the tape to bring up 2-2 , it was Novak Djokovic who allowed his frustration to show.
The world number one pounded his head with his racquet strings, but the brutal treatment he was receiving from the opposite end of the net proved harder to halt.
Twice Rafael Nadal held to love, while Novak Djokovic’s serve continued to look vulnerable.
Novak Djokovic’s resolve and fight had seem him haul back four match points to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earlier in the tournament, but he appeared drained as he gifted Rafael Nadal the championship without forcing him to play a return.
The Serb’s second serve was long to signal an end of three successive Grand Slam final wins over Rafael Nadal and continue his rival’s extraordinary record of just one defeat in the tournament since making his debut in 2005.