CINCINNATI, OH, USA - Serena Williams held off a fierce challenge from Simona Halep to win her fifth WTA title of the year, the milestone 69th WTA title of her career, keep an amazing finals streak going and head into the US Open - where she's going for her 22nd major - brimming with confidence.
There were scratchy moments during the week, including a big quarterfinal scare against Ana Ivanovic, but when it came down to the final Williams brought out her very best tennis, coming back from 3-1 down to take the first set and then surviving a marathon 67-minute second set to prevail, 6-3, 7-6(5).
The No.3-seeded Halep was on her game, her 18 winners outweighing 14 unforced errors, but the No.1-seeded Williams finished with an incredible +17 winners-to-unforced errors differential, 44 to 27.
Halep didn't leave empty-handed - by reaching the final, she'll now return to World No.2 on the new WTA Rankings, which determine the US Open seeds - meaning she can't play Williams until the final.
And she had some words of encouragement as the World No.1 embarks on her historic quest.
"I have to say congratulations to the champion, Serena, and I wish you good luck at the US Open," the always-classy Romanian said. "I know that you can win all four - so good luck, and be strong."
Williams was just as complimentary in her speech. "Thank you Simona for playing such a good match today, and always being such an incredible opponent and incredible sportswoman," she said. "I'm always honored to play against you and always have such a wonderful match whenever we play.
"I've also got to say, I don't get support everywhere I play, but I get so much support here in Cincinnati that it makes me want to come back forever and ever, so thank you to all the fans today!"
Williams now has a WTA-leading five titles on the season, having already won the Australian Open, Miami, the French Open and Wimbledon, and she's now won 69 WTA titles in her career, which sets her apart from Evonne Goolagong as standalone fifth place for most WTA titles in the Open Era, trailing only Martina Navratilova (167), Chris Evert (154), Steffi Graf (107) and Margaret Court (92).
She's also won 15 finals in a row now - her last loss in a final came right here in Cincinnati two years ago to Victoria Azarenka, and by the slimmest of margins - a 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(6) final scoreline.
I lost, but I can't be sad, I had 2 amazing weeks. @darren_cahill , thanks for being there with me? Thanks to Theo, R?zvan, Drago? as well!