It took until a week before the French Open, but world No. 1 Serena Williams claimed her first title of 2016 on Sunday, beating Madison Keys 7-6(5), 6-3 in the all-American final of the Italian Open.
Williams improved to 1-2 in finals this year, snapping a nine-month title drought. It was her fourth career Italian Open title.
Keys led 3-1 in the first set before Williams evened the set then captured the first-set tiebreak. In the second set Keys broke when the world No. 1 served for the match but Williams quickly recovered to win her 70th career title.
The final stats showed Keys’ power approach as the younger American hit 17 winners to 13 for Williams, and seven aces to Williams’ four, but the world No. 1 had eight fewer unforced errors.
“I think she’s such a powerful player,” Williams said. “Obviously going in, I knew that, but I was just trying. I think I was pretty much able to just get back what I could and that’s all I was trying to do was just to go out there and be consistent and make my shots.”
It was Williams’ first red clay event of the year after withdrawing from Madrid citing illness.
In the semifinals Williams beat Irina-Camelia Begu, and Keys downed Garbine Muguruza, both in straight sets.
The 21-year-old Keys with the result will re-enter the Top 20 on the WTA rankings. It was the first time this year that Keys surpassed the quarterfinals at an event. She fell to 1-2 in career finals.
“I think having a couple of Top 10 wins this week was really big for me and playing people who have done very well in Roland Garros and just on clay in general,” Keys said. “But I think the biggest thing is just how calm I have stayed on court and really, even in tough situations, stayed calm and collected and just really focused on my game, and I feel like I’m just playing much smarter tennis.”
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