ROME, Italy - Serena Williams was just too powerful and too accurate all week at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia and that form didn't let up in Sunday's final, as she hit over twice as many winners as unforced errors to dominate Victoria Azarenka in straight sets and capture her 51st WTA title.
The No.1-seeded Williams had been hitting her targets throughout the week, losing just 10 games in her four matches en route to the final, and that didn't really change, as she blasted 41 winners to just 19 unforced errors to come out on top against the No.3-seeded Azarenka in the final, 61 63.
There was a ray of hope for Azarenka - down 4-2 in the second set, she broke Williams back to get back on serve at 4-3, and then had a 40-15 lead in her next serve game. But Williams broke again for 5-3 and served the match out at love, with a big finish too - she hit back-to-back aces to bring up triple match point, then rifled a backhand winner up the line to end the one-hour, 33-minute contest.
"The first three games took about 20 minutes - it wasn't easy, nothing is ever easy," Williams said. "I think the difference today was I took the opportunities when I had them and came up with some really good shots. And this was the best I've moved all week - I feel fit, and hopefully it'll stay like this.
"Last year I was feeling excellent on clay but didn't do that great at Roland Garros - this year I'm cautious and I want to work hard and stay focused and win every point I play, and not slack at all."
Williams has very, very good head-to-head records against her biggest rivals in the game, including 12-2 against Azarenka now. So who would she point to as her most dangerous opponent? "Whoever I'm playing is my opponent, and also the lady in the mirror is the ultimate opponent for me," she said.
And a week before she begins her quest for a second French Open title, that lady will hit the gelato store. "This is what I was waiting for," she said. "I'll have Pistachio - it's the only one I get."
Not only did Williams keep her win streak alive this week - she has now won 24 matches in a row, the longest win streak of her career - but she now goes into Roland Garros as a clear favorite, putting together a perfect 16-0 record on clay this year in capturing all three tournaments she has entered at Charleston, Madrid and Rome. She is 33-1 on clay since the start of last year's clay court season.
Azarenka has a lot to be proud of, however. Playing just her second tournament back after missing almost two months with an ankle injury, she made it all the way to the final, taking out some tough clay courters along the way - Samantha Stosur in the quarterfinals and Sara Errani in the semifinals.
"We had a lot of tight games and the match was closer than the score, but Serena played a very good match and was better in the important moments," Azarenka said. "She was just better than me today. She's playing incredible tennis, maybe she's at her best level for the last year and a half or so.
"After the trophy ceremony we were just talking about the match and wishing each other luck for the French Open, and that we'll see each other in Paris, and hopefully see each other in another final."