Nadal, Serena roll to Rome titles
Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams thrashed Roger Federer and Victoria Azarenka respectively by identical scorelines to lift the trophies at the ATP/WTA event in Rome.
Spain’s Rafael Nadal dominated his 30th meeting with Swiss rival Roger Federer to secure his seventh title in nine years at the Rome Masters on Sunday.
Nadal’s 6-1 6-3 triumph means he now leads Federer 20-10 in their series, with 13 of his wins coming on clay.
Nadal started the event seeded only fifth after losing many of his ATP ranking points during a seven-month absence from the sport.
However the Spaniard, winning his sixth title from eight finals so far this season, showed he is back to his best on his preferred surface with a masterclass which should boost his hopes of extending his record French Open tally to eight wins at Roland Garros next week.
Nadal said he only had one slip-up in Rome and it came in the third round when Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis pushed him to three sets.
“Here, I only had one bad match, against Gulbis, but I was there mentally. I won that match with a lot of fight and a positive mentality. And yesterday and today I played at a very high level.”
Nadal admitted he had never dreamed of such success – he now has 36 wins in 38 matches since his return to the tour in February.
“If you’d told me that four or five months ago I would have said you are crazy,” said fifth-seeded Nadal.
“So after eight tournaments, six victories, and two finals, it’s a dream for me.”
Federer, the second seed, had overcome French upstart Benoit Paire in a late semi-final on Saturday to make his first final of the season.
But despite winning the opening game on serve on Sunday the Swiss failed to really get a grip on the match. In all, Federer finished with 32 unforced errors to Nadal’s eight.
“He played very aggressively from the start, he didn’t make too many mistakes and had a good match overall,” said Federer.
“Rafa has much more top-spin than all the guys I played this week, so the change was quite a big one.”
Nadal clinically broke the Swiss twice on his way to a 6-1 first set score inside 23 minutes.
Federer put up more resistance in the second but despite breaking back to 5-2 in the seventh game, and then holding serve to close to 5-3, Nadal brought up three championship points in the ninth game and required only one to seal the match with a cross-court forehand winner.
Nadal now has 24 Masters titles in a career total of 56.
Williams brushes aside Azarenka
World No.1 Serena Williams swept Belarusian Victoria Azarenka aside 6-1 6-3 to win her second Rome Open title on Sunday a week before a fresh tilt at the French Open.
Williams broke Azarenka’s serve three times in a one-sided first set and despite a tighter second set the American prevailed to stretch her career-best winning streak to 24 matches.
It was Williams’s 51st career title and took her victory tally over Azarenka, who beat the American earlier this season in the final of the Doha hardcourt event, to 12-2 in their series.
Azarenka had swept Sara Errani aside in the semi-final on Saturday with a powerful display of tennis which left the Italian, who only made the last four after Russian second seed Maria Sharapova pulled out, struggling to mount any kind of challenge.
However the tables were promptly turned on the third-seeded Belarusian, who found herself on the end of a Williams masterclass that has installed her as the favourite for next week’s French Open at Roland Garros.
Williams, however, said the match was closer than the score suggested.
“It was very close, the first three games were over 20-25 minutes or so, so it wasn’t really easy out there. Nothing is really easy,” said the American.
“I just took the opportunities when I had them. I know she (Azarenka) did as well, but I came up with the good shots sometimes.”
Williams started in stunning fashion, breaking Azarenka’s serve in the first game and going on to repeat that twice more on her way to a crushing 6-1 score.
Azarenka upped her game in the second but despite showing some signs of resistance early on, Williams’s far more powerful serve and return left the Belarusian frustrated.
Azarenka did earn herself a lifeline when she broke Williams in the seventh game after the American sent a backhand just outside the line.
But the top seed rattled off three consecutive games, including a break in the eighth game, before finishing off the job with a backhand winner down the line following two aces.
Azarenka agreed the match had been closer than the score suggested but admitted Williams had made the difference in the key moments.
“She played a very good match but I don’t think the score tells the true story of the game,” she said.
“She definitely showed some more incredible tennis today … she’s been playing her best tennis for the past year and a half or so.
“But today she played much better in the key moments of the match.”
It is Williams’s second title at Rome, having first won the event in 2002.