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NEWS

Serena continues to roll, wins Italian Open

May 19, 2013 02:01 PM
Serena Williams enters the French Open having won four straight tournaments and 24 consecutive matches.

ROME (AP) -- Serena Williams won her fourth consecutive title of the year in impressive fashion on Sunday, defeating third-seeded Victoria Azarenka, 6-1, 6-3, in the final of the Italian Open. The top-ranked American will go to next week's French Open on a career-best 24-match winning run.

Williams was coming off consecutive titles in Miami; Charleston, South Carolina; and Madrid last week.

She didn't drop a set while winning this title.

"I moved better than I did all week,'' Williams said. "Hopefully I can stay like this. I feel really good.''

On a pleasant spring day, Williams immediately took control by breaking Azarenka's serve twice to take a 3-0 lead in the opening set.

The 15-time Grand Slam winner slugged winners at will off Azarenka's first and second serves, stepping into the court to dictate play at every opportunity.

Azarenka grew distraught at the end of the first set, twice slamming her racket on the court in desperation.

After trading breaks midway through the second set, Williams took control again when Azarenka double-faulted to give her a 5-3 lead. Williams served out the match at love, letting out a big scream when she unleashed a backhand winner down the line to close it out.

"She definitely showed incredible tennis today,'' Azarenka said. "But I don't think the score says how close the match was. She was better at the key moments.''

Williams held a 41-12 edge in winners and served nine aces to Azarenka's none.

"It wasn't really easy out there,'' Williams said. "I just came up with the good shots at the right times.''

Williams has twice won 21 matches in a row before, although they came more than a decade ago, in 2002 and the beginning of 2003.

Martina Navratilova established the longest women's winning run in the Open Era at 74 matches in 1984.

Williams' only previous title at this clay-court event came when she beat Justine Henin in the 2002 final.

That was also the year she won her only Roland Garros title. Last year in Paris, Williams lost in the opening round of a major for the first time, falling to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano of France.

"The lady in the mirror is the ultimate opponent for me,'' Williams said, looking ahead to Paris. "I'm going to try and win every match and be really cautious going for every point.''

At 31, Williams is back at the top of her game after missing 11 months in 2010 and 2011 with a right foot injury and a pulmonary embolism.

In the men's final, Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer, 6-1, 6-3, for his seventh Italian Open title in the 30th meeting between the two rivals.

 

 

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