World No. 1 Serena Williams captured her seventh Sony Open title in Miami with an emphatic victory over reigning Australian Open champion Li Na.
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By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
Serena Williams owns a share of the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins and, now, an even larger piece of South Beach tennis lore. Fighting off the gusty conditions inside the Tennis Center at Crandon Park, Williams rallied to capture the 2014 Sony Open title over China’s Li Na, 7-5, 6-1.
Williams, 32, takes home a seventh title in what was her 16th career appearance at the event, breaking a tie with fellow American Andre Agassi for most singles championships in tournament history. Only Steffi Graf (5) and sister Venus Williams (3) have won the event more than two times in the women's game. Serena, who makes her residence 80 miles to the north in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., won her first Miami crown back in 2002.
"It feels great," said Williams after the victory. "I love playing here. I have so many friends here that bought tickets to come today. The tournament, to win, is so sweet."
Heading into the matchup, the world No. 1 had won nine consecutive matches against Li dating back to 2008. Their last two high-profile matches were wins for Williams, first in the US Open semifinals, 6-0, 6-3, and next at the WTA Tour Championships final, where the American rallied from a set down to win, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0.
Williams is now 11-1 in head-to-head tilts against the reigning Australian Open champion.
Li broke Williams’ first service game and led 5-2, as Williams pushed shots awkwardly against the wind swirling about the stadium court. Li had a set-point opportunity at 5-4, but Williams crushed a backhand down the line and then snapped a forehand cross-court winner to take the next point, eventually evening things at 5-all. In all, Williams would capture the last five games in the opening stanza to complete the comeback and wrest control of the contest.
"She was playing so well," said Williams of Li. "[Down 5-2] I felt like I had nothing to lose. I just was able to relax. Whenever I relax, I enjoy myself."
The second set was more precise and less problematic for Williams, who ratcheted up particularly sharp and unreturnable backhands to beat Li in a battle of perhaps the two most powerful hitters in the women’s game today.
Sunday’s men’s final at the Sony Open will feature another No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup when top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain takes on Novak Djokovic of Serbia, a rematch of last year’s US Open championship match. Djokovic will be looking for a second straight Masters title after winning the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., two weeks ago.
Later in the afternoon in the men's doubles final, the 15-time Grand Slam-winning duo of Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Colombia's Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, 7-6, 6-4.
For the Bryans, it's a third Sony Open title and their first since 2008. It is also the first time in which the brothers swept both Indian Wells and Miami back to back.