Serena Williams won her 62nd career title and first in Cincinnati with an impressive 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Ana Ivanovic on Sunday.
Many had expected the world number one to struggle in the Western and Southern Open showpiece. Not only was she playing her 13th match in 20 days, she was also facing a resurgent opponent who was coming into the final fresh from a morale-boosting win over Maria Sharapova.
Serena has looked sluggish at several points this week, and she started the final in that vein. Moving languidly and misfiring on serve, she allowed Ivanovic to establish a 3-1 first set lead. But rather than doze for an entire set as she did in her semi-final with Caroline Wozniacki, Williams shook free of her torpor immediately. She saved three break points to hold serve in the next game, and a series of massive forehands helped her break back for 3-all.
That would be the match’s first and only turning point. Those hoping for a battle similar to the pair’s last encounter – a three-set win for Serena in Stanford a fortnight ago – were left disappointed as the top seed entered business mode and Ivanovic floundered. Serving at 4-5, the Serb hit two nervy double faults in a row to hand Serena the set.
And Williams only got better as the match wore on. She took advantage of more lacklustre serving from Ivanovic to establish a 3-1 lead in the second set, and soon she began dominating from the back of the court, hitting winners that left the crowd in raptures. With the contest just over one hour old, Serena held convincingly for the final time to claim the only Premier 5 trophy missing from her cabinet.
“It’s amazing to finally win here,” said the 32-year-old, who finished the day with 13 aces and 26 winners. “I’ve had a great week.”
Ivanovic, meanwhile, was good-humoured in defeat. “I want to congratulate Serena. I think I got a lesson on how to serve today. Maybe after you retire you can give me some tips!”
Both women will have a week of rest and practice before moving on to New York for the final Grand Slam of the season. Serena is the defending US Open champion, and has to be considered the favourite at this year’s tournament. She has won more matches than any other player on hard courts this summer, her only loss coming at the hands of sister Venus.
Ivanovic’s efforts in Cincinnati have guaranteed her a top eight seeding at Flushing Meadows, so the earliest she can meet Serena there is in the quarter-finals. The 2008 Roland Garros champion has never progressed beyond that stage at the US Open.