KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Serena Williams entered the Miami Open shrouded by doubt, not stemming from a lack of confidence or on-court dominance, but from the uncertainty of an “excruciating” painful right knee injury which caused her to pull out of her semifinal at Indian Wells just four days before the tournament began.
Well, Williams, who didn’t even bother to wear a wrap on her knee during this marquee 13-day event, eradicated all doubt as well as her overmatched opponent, Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro, in a 56-minute, 6-2, 6-0 rout to extend her record to eight titles in Miami on a sun-baked Saturday afternoon.
The only doubt emanated from a nervous 12th-seeded Suarez Navarro, who never seemed to truly believe that she could defeat the world’s No. 1 in a David vs. Goliath matchup. After all, in their previous four meetings, Suarez Navarro had won just 10 games and zero sets, now 12 games in five lopsided defeats.
“Can’t say I thought I would win eight, especially in the beginning of the week,” said the top-seeded Williams after notching her second three-peat in Miami (2002-04) where she has won 18 straight matches, is 73-7 overall and 8-2 in finals.
“It just feels really weird. Definitely feels good, and I’m happy to be able to get through.”
After a sluggish 2-2 start in which Williams’ sometimes erratic forehand betrayed her, Suarez Navarro had her only break point of the match which Williams promptly erased with consecutive aces, the first at 122 mph.
From there, Williams found the range and reeled off the final 10 games while surrendering just two points before punctuating her 66th title with a forehand crosscourt blast for her 29th winner to just 13 unforced errors.
She neutralized Suarez Navarro’s stylish one-hand, topspin backhand, a rare stroke seen on the women’s tour, one that Williams hasn’t dropped a set against since 2010 and a match to since 2007 (both to former No. 1 Justine Henin).
“Serena plays with a lot of spin to my backhand and the ball is going like up to my backhand. I need more power,” said the 5-foot-4 Suarez Navarro, who might’ve angered Williams after beating sister Venus in the quarters.
“It’s difficult. So that’s why I need to slice. … When I play with Serena I know that she’s the best. She has the game to make me play bad.”
Williams, who usually jumps for joy while pirouetting, offered an understated clenched fist, similarly to her humble celebration after crushing 15-year-old American CiCi Bellis in the third round.
“It’s not kind of in your face, like I’m up 5-love and I won and I’m going to really jump up really high,” said Williams, who has won 21 straight matches and is 18-0 this year. “It’s different if it’s 5-all or 7-5. You don’t know which way it’s going to turn.”
Suarez Navarro, 26, who will rise to a career-high No. 10 and become the first Spaniard to crash the Top 10 since two-time Miami champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 2001, offered little resistance in a 24-minute second set. Suarez Navarro, who won her first and only title last year, has reached four quarterfinals in Grand Slams, while her coral-clad opponent won her 19th major in Australia earlier this year.
“Before the match of course (I believed I could win). During the match I believe, but every time it’s more difficult,” said Suarez Navarro, who lost 21-of-22 first serves from Williams and finished with just three winners to 19 unforced errors.
“She always wants more and more and winning to be the best. I don’t know how old she is but she wants all the time to be the best, to be No. 1.”
For the record, Williams is 33 and again the oldest player to win this tournament. She will remain No. 1 for her 116th straight week, third longest in history, while pocketing $900,400 and 1,000 ranking points.
Admittedly not playing at her best this tournament, Williams was tested in three-set victories over Sabine Lisicki in the quarters and rising Romanian Simona Halep (7-5 in the third) in the semis.
“This tournament I wasn’t serving my best,” Williams said. “On the flip side, it’s good to know that I can win relying on my groundstrokes. It’s not just one shot that makes me good. It’s an all-court game.”
When Mike and Bob Bryan weren’t signing autographs and posing for pictures this week, the top-seeded American twins captured their fourth title in Miami, by downing second-seeded defending Wimbledon champs Jack Sock of Tampa, and Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, 6-3, 1-6, (10-8) in a thrilling match.
“It came down to the wire. We were lucky to win today,” said Mike, whose forehand down the middle sealed their 33rd Masters title and 105th overall.
Sep 28, 2016 0
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