ROME, Italy - Serena Williams beat Sara Errani in the Internazionali BNL d'Italia final for the 60th WTA title of her career, and also to become the first player so far this year to win three WTA titles.
The last few years, Williams went into the French Open as the clear-cut favorite, usually putting together some insane numbers through the first four or five months of the year. This year has been a little bit tame for her - yes she had two WTA titles coming into Rome, but so did three more players, and she was unable to defend her Charleston and Madrid titles. Maybe some cracks in the armor?
Meanwhile, Errani had been picking up steam all week. Having fallen out of the Top 10 earlier in the year, the Italian No.1 had finally put together one of the inspired runs she's been known for over the last few years, beating two Top 10 players at the same tournament for the second time - the first was during her run to the French Open final in 2012 - and becoming the first Italian woman to reach the final at her home event since Raffaella Reggi all the way back in 1985, before she was even born.
Additionally, the last few days had been all about turning the tides - Ana Ivanovic snapping a seven-match losing streak against Maria Sharapova, Li Na overturning an 0-6 head-to-head against Sam Stosur, and Errani in turn overturning an 0-6 head-to-head against Li. It was a week of breakthroughs - could Errani overturn her own 0-6 head-to-head against Williams, in front of her home crowd as well?
The Turning Point
Order was restored in the Eternal City on Sunday. The first set was tricky - the No.1-seeded Williams needed 51 minutes to win it, 6-3, and wasn't truly in full flow, hitting an even 16 winners and 16 unforced errors. Meanwhile, the No.10-seeded Errani had four winners to 10 unforced errors.
The second set was one way traffic. Williams had a +13 differential of winners to unforced errors (15 to 2) and barely lost points (24 to 5). The second set lasted 21 minutes. Williams won, 6-3, 6-0.
Williams finished the match with her 31st winner of the day, a massive backhand down the line.
By The Numbers
Beyond match numbers, there were major implications from Williams' win, and not just the implication that she's once again a strong favorite for the French - she's now 53-2 on clay since the start of the 2012 clay court season, the only losses in that stretch coming in the first round of the 2012 French Open (to Virginie Razzano) and in her opening match at Charleston this year (to Jana Cepelova).
And while she doesn't move up from No.7 on the all-time list for most WTA titles, at 60 she's now creeping closer and closer to No.6 on the list - Billie Jean King, who won 67 WTA titles in her career.
"Sara played really well in the first set. She was doing everything right and I could tell she had obviously improved since our last meeting in Paris last year," Williams said. "It was unfortunate she got injured in the last game of the set, but overall I thought she was playing really well out there.
"Today gave me a great opportunity to understand the atmosphere I'll have in Paris, too. It was a great opportunity for me. Paris is a Grand Slam and you think differently, you have a little more nerves, everyone's uptight and excited, the crowd is different, and energy levels can be different too."