Serena Williams laid down a serious marker ahead of the French Open on Sunday, thrashing world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka to claim a maiden Madrid Open title.
Williams has been in sensational form all week, hammering Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-3 in the quarter-finals, and she found that level again in Sunday’s showpiece. Azarenka was rendered helpless as the American powered to a 6-1 6-3 victory, wrapped up in 64 minutes.
Azarenka was left with a runners-up medal for the second consecutive year, but this loss was in stark contrast to her competitive defeat to Petra Kvitova 12 months ago. Williams, capitalising on the fast pace of the court, smashed a catalogue of winners as she won her 41st WTA singles title.
Williams was, on form alone, the lady to back ahead of Sunday’s action, having been head and shoulders above her rivals for most of the week. Her head-to-head record against Azarenka also read an impressive 6-1 in her favour, and she had won her last 12 matches on clay.
Nevertheless, Azarenka is the world’s top-ranked player, the reigning Australian Open champion and winner of four WTA titles already this season. The Belarusian’s added depth and accuracy over the past 12 months has been significant, yet she barely got to exhibit any of her quality in a one-sided final.
Williams’ first serve functioned at only a 48 per cent success rate in the opening set, yet she still waltzed through it 6-1. She dropped six points on serve as Azarenka was broken three times, the world No. 1 seeing multiple second serves crashed back with interest as Williams returned superbly.
The third break of the set allowed Williams to serve first in the second, which she used to her advantage by breaking on Azarenka’s first delivery en route to a 3-0 lead. It was a dire position for Azarenka to find herself in, a set and a break down, with Williams looking unbreakable – firing down 14 aces in the contest.
Azarenka managed to threaten in the fifth game, taking it the deuce, only to see another ace disappear beyond her racket. That proved to be her only chance as Williams served out for the match, reminding all in attendance that she is to be feared as Roland Garros looms on the WTA calendar.