Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Milestone wins for Serena, Nadal

MADRID — Serena Williams kept the No. 1 and added No. 50.

Williams beat Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-4 in the final of the Madrid Open on Sunday to retain her No. 1 ranking and collect her 50th career title.

In the men's final, Rafael Nadal eased by Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-4 for his fifth title since returning from a knee injury.

Sharapova, ranked second, would have moved to No. 1 with a win, but Williams stormed out to an early lead as Sharapova struggled with her serve.

Despite Sharapova briefly recovering her poise in the second set, Williams' form never dipped.

"It feels good," Williams said about winning her 50th title. "I don't know how many more I can win. Who knows if I will ever win another title? I just want to live the dream. Hopefully, I can keep it going.

"When you first start out, everything is so exciting. Now I expect to win."

Williams improved her record against Sharapova to 13-2; both losses were in 2004.

Williams, 31, playing in her first final on red clay since winning the 2002 French Open, dominated Sharapova, 26, from the start as Sharapova never managed to steady her erratic serve.

"I started the match really slow, and against an opponent like (Williams), you can't give her that," said Sharapova, who had won her previous seven red-clay finals. "I wasn't reacting well. I wasn't moving well. I didn't have a lot of great first serves in. She was really stepping up."

Last year the Madrid tournament organizers chose to use a blue clay that drew heavy criticism for being slippery. Williams said the decision to switch back to traditional red was "a plus," allowing for better preparation for the French Open, which starts in two weeks.

Cheered on by the home crowd at the Caja Magica, Nadal cruised to his 55th career title. He won in his seventh straight final since recovering from a nagging case of tendinitis in his left knee that sidelined him for seven months.

"I'm very happy, and maybe this victory is even more special considering how complicated this year has been," Nadal said. "This tournament couldn't have gone better for me."

Nadal, who was among the loudest critics of the blue clay, thanked the organizers for returning to the regular red surface, on which he has now won 40 titles.

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