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Serena defends Madrid championship, earns 50th title

Serena Williams, the oldest player to hold the No. 1 ranking in the world, wins her fourth tournament of the year.

Serena Williams, the oldest player to hold the No. 1 ranking in the world, wins her fourth tournament of the year.

MADRID — World No. 1 Serena Williams racked up the 50th title of her illustrious 18-year career when she thumped Maria Sharapova, 6-1, 6-4, to defend her Madrid Open crown on Sunday.

Williams’ victory, her fourth tournament win of 2013 and only the seventh on clay since she turned pro in 1995, prevented Sharapova from leapfrogging her to the top of the rankings.

It also showed the 31-year-old American, a 15-times grand slam singles champion, is on red-hot form as she prepares her bid to add to her sole French Open title at Roland Garros starting later this month.

With the sliding roof over the Manolo Santana show court open to a cloudless sky, Sharapova struggled to find her range as Williams battered winners to all corners to race into a one-set lead.

The Russian, ranked No. 2 in the world, mounted a fightback at the start of the second set but could not sustain it and Williams broke her for a fifth time in the match to secure a first title on red clay — the Madrid courts were blue last year — since the 2002 French Open.

“It’s not the ultimate title, but it’s a good start in the right direction,” Williams, who was upset by Virginie Razzano in the first round at Roland Garros last year, told a news conference.

“I don’t know how many more (titles) I can win,” she added.

“Like I say every day, who knows if I’ll ever win another title? I just want to live the moment and the dream every chance I get.”

Sharapova, 26, the French Open champion, has a woeful record against Williams. She has only beaten her twice in 15 attempts, and never on clay, with both victories coming almost a decade ago.

She did not seem too dejected by her latest reverse to the American and said she was pleased with the way her preparations for Roland Garros were going.

“At the end of the day I’m setting myself up opportunities to go out on the court and face her and play against her,” Sharapova told a news conference.

“Obviously I wouldn’t be happy if I wouldn’t set up those opportunities because I do want to go on the court and I do want to face someone that’s number one in the world and is playing tennis the way she does,” she added.

“So I am happy about the fact of getting late into tournaments, winning tournaments, getting to the finals.

“If that means having to face Serena in the final that’s a pretty great challenge out there. I take it, because I’m a very big competitor.”

Williams, the oldest player to hold the number one ranking, is 10th on the all-time list for most career titles.

Martina Navratilova leads on 167, followed by Chris Evert with 154 and Steffi Graf with 107. Sharapova has 29, third among active players behind Serena and her sister Venus Williams who has 44.


Nadal eases past Wawrinka, 6-2, 6-4, for third Madrid Open title

MADRID — When Rafa Nadal returned to action in February after seven months out with a knee injury he never thought that just over three months later he would have another five titles in the bag, including two more Masters triumphs.

The Spaniard, a former No. 1 and the French Open champion, dropped to fifth in the world during his enforced absence before storming back to win in Sao Paulo, Acapulco, Indian Wells, Barcelona and now Madrid.

He also reached the finals at Vina del Mar and Monte Carlo and Sunday’s 6-2 6-4 destruction of Swiss 15th seed Stanislas Wawrinka in front of his adoring home fans in the Spanish capital was his third Madrid Open title.

Nadal now has 40 titles on his beloved clay, equal second in the Open era with Thomas Muster, and if he stays fit he could easily overhaul Guillermo Vilas’s record of 45 by this time next year.

Ominously for any rival eyeing his Roland Garros crown — he will be chasing an eighth title in Paris starting at the end of this month — he said after his victory in Madrid he was close to where he wanted to be in terms of fitness and form.

Nadal said that Sunday’s match was his most satisfactory performance since his return to Europe after his Indian Wells victory in March.

“I’ve realized that my forehand is working again at its best level and I am able to open up the angles and play a lot of winning points,” Nadal said.

“It’s true that in some moments I was lacking a little bit of backhand or legs.

“But if I’m able to compensate for that with my aggressiveness everything changes.

“These last matches I have been able to reach that goal, you know, that line, that place where I want to be playing, the kind of form that I’m aiming for.”

Nadal now heads to Rome, where he beat world number one Novak Djokovic in the final last year for his sixth title at the Masters event in the Italian capital.

He said he would be back on the practice court on Monday and was cautious when asked about his prospects for the coming months.

“The outlook will be great if I don’t feel anything in my knee,” he said.

“But I don’t know how the thing’s going to improve, so that’s why I want to be very calm, stay with the feet completely on the floor, and go day by day.

“Things are going well but the injury is not two years ago. It’s just a few months ago.

“So I need to be calm, enjoy every moment, and for sure keep working hard to be fit for the rest of the season.”

Nadal was reluctant to look beyond Rome and discuss his chances for the French Open.

“It’s the moment just to be happy with what I have achieved in Madrid, in Barcelona and Monte Carlo.

“You know, I’m here and next week I will be in Rome and I will be thinking about Rome. I won’t be thinking Roland Garros.

“When it comes we will think about Roland Garros, which is a pretty important tournament, of course, but it’s not the only one in the world.

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