There are not many gaps in Serena Williams’s theoretical trophy case, the shelves of which would already be bending under the weight of 61 WTA Tour singles titles. Still, the 62nd was a new one, with the top-ranked Williams beating No.11 Ana Ivanovic, 6-4, 6-1, on Sunday afternoon to win the Western & Southern Open for the first time. The event was the most important American tournament to have eluded her.
Roger Federer had no such gap to fill and added a sixth Cincinnati Masters title to his collection when he defeated David Ferrer, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2, in the men’s final later in the day. It was the third-ranked Federer’s 22nd title in the Masters Series and his 80th singles title over all. Federer had not won a Masters event for two years, since claiming the championship in Cincinnati in 2012.
Williams had an outstanding day of serving, even by her standards. Of her first serves that landed in, 41 percent (12 of 29) were aces. Ivanovic was able to return only 46 percent of Williams’s total serves in the match (24 of 52).
“Definitely at some point of the match, I actually felt quite embarrassed walking from one side to the other for returns,” Ivanovic said with a self-deprecating giggle. “Yeah, we are lucky to have someone like her in our game.”
Williams started slowly, needing to stave off three break points when already trailing in the first set, 3-1. But she went on to win 11 of the final 13 games in the match. “What makes her Serena is this ability to click,” Patrick Mouratoglou, Williams’s coach, said. “The level comes suddenly and stays there for 11 games.”
Although Williams has compiled a nearly spotless 12-1 record since Wimbledon, the only loss coming to her sister Venus in the Montreal semifinals, she had not looked anywhere near as sharp as she did in Sunday’s victory, which took only 62 minutes.
“My first day of practice here, something just clicked,” she said. “I was playing better and I was serving better. I don’t know. I think all the hard work was just paying off.”
Through her performances at the lead-up events, Williams also clinched the United States Open Series bonus challenge for a second consecutive year, making her eligible for a $1 million bonus should she be crowned the Open champion in New York.
These accolades on their own do little to salvage this year for Williams, who despite five titles has been dissatisfied with her results at the three Grand Slam events so far, losing before the quarterfinals each time.
“I think exactly like her,” Mouratoglou said. “I think this year is really bad – for her. For any other player, it’s a great year. For Serena, it’s a bad year. But you cannot be always at the top. You have to have ups and downs. The year and a half before was really an unbelievable level, and she won almost everything she played. Not everything, but almost. So she had a down for six months, a relative down. She still won three titles in those six months, but not the major ones.”
Williams and Mouratoglou have discussed changes to her schedule for the 2015 season intended to put a greater focus on the Grand Slam events.
“At the end of the day, I definitely want to be able to win majors and then just pick and choose really carefully around the tournaments,” said Williams, who will turn 33 next month. “So make sure I’m super healthy.
Although 32 is the new 22, it’s still 32. Or 33 in a couple weeks.”
Mouratoglou said last week that he was confident in Williams’s preparations for the Open, where she is a two-time defending champion.
“I was already very optimistic about New York after Montreal,” he said. “I said, for me, if we don’t play Cincinnati, it’s fine. She’s ready. So this week just confirmed that she was ready.”
Federer, who, like Williams, is seeking an 18th Grand Slam singles title, similarly said he thought he could have skipped playing Cincinnati, having reached the final last week in Toronto.
“Backing up a tough week from last week, I didn’t think it was possible,” he said of winning here. “I was considering not playing – for just a day or so on Monday – just to not go crazy here. We don’t need to take chances here. I need to be smart about how much I play, when I play and how do I feel. So I waited for Monday, Tuesday, to see how I played. In practice, I felt like I was recovering quickly and to give to a go.”
After comfortably taking the first set Sunday, 6-3, Federer appeared poised to put the match out of reach. He earned several break points in the opening game of the second set, which the seventh-ranked Ferrer saved. Ferrer won 16 of 18 points from the second game of the set to the start of the sixth, building a 5-0 lead. Federer, who was last shut out in a set when he fell to Rafael Nadal in straight sets at the 2008 French Open final, managed to get a game before Ferrer claimed the middle set, 6-1.
Roger books london spot
Federer has qualified for a record 13th consecutive ATP World Tour Finals in comfortable fashion, in marked contrast to 2013 when he squeezed in the week before the end-of-season tournament in London. Federer, 33, claimed his sixth Western and Southern Open title in Cincinnati on Sunday. The result was good enough for him to become the third man to qualify for the eight-player event, behind Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the world No.1 and 2. “It’s always one of the big goals I set myself at the beginning of the season,” Federer, a six-time Finals winner, said in a statement.
“It’s always an absolute honour being part of the best eight. Getting a chance to win an extra trophy at the end of the season – which is so prestigious, one of the biggest ones we have in the game and one I’ve done so well at – is a great feeling.”
The 17-times Grand Slam champion battled in 2013, winning just one title and also suffering a shock second-round exit at Wimbledon. (Reuters)
PAES OUT OF TOP-10
New Delhi:Veteran Leander Paes dropped out of the top-10 after losing a place in the doubles ranking, while Rohan Bopanna slid to 29 following a steep loss of eight places in the new chart issued on Monday. Paes, who lost in the second round of the Cincinnati Masters with partner Radek Stepanek, is now placed 11th and continues to be India’s top-ranked player. Paes and Bopanna are the only top-30 players from the country in the world rankings, while left-handed Divij Sharan, who is unchanged this week, is the next best at 111.
In the singles, Somdev Devvarman is best-placed player at number 143, a gain of one place. Yuki Bhambri is second-highest ranked player at number 151. The Delhi lad is followed by left-handed Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (295) and Ramkumar Ramanathan, who achieved a career-best rank of 301 today with a jump of four places.