TSerena Williams vs Madison Keys Rome Masters highlights, result, recap.
World No1 wins all-American final and now heads to Paris for the start of the French Open in seven days’ time as a strong favourite to match Steffi Graf’s total of 22 Grand Slam titles.
Serena Williams arrived at the Foro Italico last week without a tournament victory from her current season for the first time in 18 years. She leaves it with a fourth Rome title to her name after making light of her travails of the last nine months. A 7-6, 6-3 victory in the final over her fellow American, Madison Keys (21), secured Williams’ first triumph since August.
Williams has always been able to pick up her form almost at the drop of a hat and in the last week has not looked like a player whose last competitive appearance was two months ago, when she lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round in Miami. Her five victories here have all been in straight sets and she will head to Paris for the start of the French Open in seven days’ time as a strong favourite to match Steffi Graf’s total of 22 Grand Slam titles.
Although this was only her fourth tournament appearance since her stunning semi-final defeat at the hands of Roberta Vinci in September, Williams was on her game from the start. Her only regret might be that she was not tested further here, though Keys pushed her hard in the opening set of the first all-American clay-court women’s final since Serena defeated her sister Venus at the French Open 14 years ago. It was the first all-American women’s final here for 46 years.
Highlights: Serena Williams vs Madison Keys ROME ITALIAN OPEN FINAL
Americans have has long wondered who might be their next female champion after the Williams sisters. Keys, who celebrated her 21st birthday three months ago, may well be the answer. The world No 24, who is expected to rise to No 17 in tomorrow’s updated ranking list, has a big game, including one of the best serves in the business, and now needs to find the consistency – in terms of both performance and fitness – to match her undoubted potential.
Playing in the biggest final of her career, Keys never looked over-awed. Although her game would appear to be better suited to quicker courts, she moves well on clay and seems comfortable sliding into her shots. With both players striking the ball with great power, most of the rallies were short and sweet.
Keys could hardly have made a better start. Williams, who pulled out of last week’s tournament in Madrid because of flu, appeared to be shocked by the pace of her opponent’s returns in the opening game and was broken to love. The world No 1 looked heavy-footed and ill at ease, as if she had fallen sick for the second time in a week as a result of tasting food intended for her pet dog, Chip, who was again sitting on a minder’s lap up in the stands, next to Venus.
Keys, meanwhile, held her first service game with three aces and her second with three more. When she served at 3-2, however, Keys suddenly found her well of aces had dried up. Williams, quickly moving back up through the gears, broke back and the set eventually went to a tie-break which featured some excellent play by both women.
Williams went 4-2 up in the tie-break thanks to a wonderful defensive lob but could only applaud three points later when her opponent struck a thunderous forehand down-the-line winner to finish off a thrilling rally. Williams created set point with a big forehand to the corner and promptly won the tie-break 7-5 after 51 minutes with an unreturned serve.
The world No 1’s enduring hunger for victory was evident at the end of the opening game of the second set. Keys played a drop shot which looked sure to be a winner, but Williams sprinted across the court and not only dug the ball out but flicked it down the line to take the point.
Some thumping returns of serve saw Williams break again to lead 3-0, but Keys refused to crumble under the assault, breaking serve twice more. However, when Keys served at 3-5 Williams continued to turn the screw and two successive missed backhands by the younger woman brought the match to a conclusion after an hour and 24 minutes.
Williams, whose pleasure was evident as she took selfies with the trophy after the presentation ceremony, has now won 70 titles in her career, having lost only 19 finals. Already the oldest world No 1 in history at 34, she appears to have no intention of giving up her reign at the top for a good while yet.