Williams needed only 62 minutes to beat Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-1 last night in the Western & Southern Open.
It was a personal breakthrough as she’d never even reached the final in Cincinnati until last year, when she fell apart and lost to Victoria Azarenka on a third-set tiebreaker.
No wobbles this time. After being broken in the first game, she took control with her serve and took advantage of Ivanovic’s sloppy play, improving to 5-0 in finals this year.
Both finalists were coming off marathon semi-final wins the day before,, Williams having rallied from a first set blowout to beat Caroline Wozniacki, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, and Ivanovic battling almost three hours and fighting off two match points to overcome Maria Sharapova in a Saturday night thriller, 6-2, 5-7, 7-5.
Ivanovic was even treated for a stomach ailment during her win over Sharapova and didn’t have much left against Williams, who served 12 aces on the way to being presented with the long-awaited trophy.
The only other event that Williams had played six times without winning the title is Sydney.
Afterwards she said: “It’s just amazing to finally win here. The fans were amazing and it’s so wonderful to be here.
“Congratulations to Ana – she’s such a great champion and such a wonderful, wonderful young lady,” Williams added.
“It’s so good to see wonderful women like her leading our tour right now.
Ivanovic said: “It’s been a great week for me in Cincinnati.
“I really 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!”
It was a good match-up for Williams, who is 7-1 in her career against Ivanovic. Her only loss came at the Australian Open this year. Although their past three matches have been close – all going three sets – this one was one-sided after the first few games.
Williams developed a stiff back that limited her serve in the semi-finals on Saturday night. She moved stiffly at the start yesterday, double-faulted in the first game and was broken.
But she started moving better and took control with her serve, pulling even at 3-3. She clinched the set when Ivanovic fell behind 15-30, then double-faulted twice in a row.
The back problem came into play in the second set. Williams winced after a serve in the opening game and arched her back. She stretched her back a few times between points.
Ivanovic couldn’t take advantage. Despite the loss, she’ll move back into the top ten in the WTA rankings with her strong showing in Cincinnati.