Serena wins Italian Open title

Rome, May 15

Serena Williams ended a nine-month title drought with a 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over Madison Keys in an all-American Italian Open final on Sunday.

Williams’ previous title came in Cincinnati in August — a month before her attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam ended with a semi-final loss to Roberta Vinci at the US Open. It’s Williams’ fourth title in Rome and it comes exactly a week before the French Open begins. It was the first time two American women have met in a final on clay since Serena beat older sister Venus in the 2002 French Open. The last all-American final in Rome was in 1970, when Billie Jean King beat Julie Heldman.

In the Rome record book, Serena drew level with Conchita Martinez and Gabriela Sabatini, who also took four titles at the Foro Italico. Chris Evert holds the women’s record with five titles while Rafael Nadal holds the overall mark with seven. It was the 70th title overall in Serena’s career.

The 21-year-old Keys was playing in the biggest final of her career. She posted personal best results at all four majors last year, including reaching the Australian Open semi-finals and the Wimbledon quarter-finals. Keys broke Serena at love in the opening game of the match and hit six aces in her opening two service games to take a 3-1 lead.

As Serena became more aggressive, however, Keys hit two double faults to hand the break back, making it 3-3. In the tiebreak, Serena took control with a wicked cross-court forehand that Keys couldn’t get back then closed it out on her first set point with a big serve out wide that Keys returned long. After taking first set, Serena pumped her fists and yelled to herself, ‘Come on!’”