Serena Williams has won her first WTA Premier 900 Cincinnati title, the Western and Southern Open, by beating ninth seed Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-1. It was the pair’s eighth meeting and Williams now leads the head to head 7-1.
Ivanovic started out the better player, racing into a 3-1 lead. The Serbian beat the world No.1 in Melbourne this year and pushed her to three sets in Rome and Stanford, and it looked like another competitive contest was on the cards.
Williams broke back though for 3-3 and the match went with serve until Ivanovic served to stay in the set at 4-5. Williams broke then, too, to take the first set 6-4. After that, the match primarily became about one thing: the serve.
The serve is Serena’s biggest weapon, and on the fast courts of Cincinnati against a tough competitor, that weapon did not let her down. Williams fired down 12 aces, and though her first serve percentage was not that high at 55 percent, when she did get it in, she won 80 percent of the points. Williams second serve was up to the task, too, as she won 52 percent of points behind that shot.
Ivanovic, meanwhile, struggled. She had a higher first serve percentage of 58, but only won 50 percent of those points. And on her second serve, she could win only eight of 20 points. On a day when Williams meant business, that was never going to be good enough, and Serena attacked her second serves and imposed herself on the points.
It was a day when getting business done effectively was easy for Williams in all aspects of her game. Throughout the match, Serena struck no less than 26 winners, and made 13 errors. Her opponent finished the contest with 13 winners to 21 errors.
Williams’ business was one of winning one of the few titles to elude her on the tour. Williams was a finalist in Cincinnati last year, but was beaten in a final set tiebreaker by Vika Azarenka. That was the furthest she had gone in the event until this year, going out in the last eight to Angelique Kerber in 2012, withdrawing against Sam Stosur in the the round of 32 in 2011, being upset by Sybille Bammer in 2009, and suffering a defeat to Vera Zvonereva in 2006.
Apart from winning the tournament, her fifth of the season, and claiming the US Open Series title, just as she did last year, Serena had other business to attend to. That business was sending a message to her rivals that she is ready to take the US Open title just as she did last year. It is a message she needs to send. This season, while she has kept her grip on the No.1 ranking, Williams has been shocked at all the slams she has played this year, and has not even made it past the fourth round. She lost to Ivanovic in Australia, to Muguruza in the second round in France, and to Alize Cornet in the U.K.
Serena will not want to suffer such a fate in her home country, and the emphatic win over Ivanovic today sends out the message she does not intend to be going home early. If she is the last player to leave the party, trophy in hand, she will not go home broke either. The winner of the U.S Open Series gets a $1 million bonus if they win the U.S Open title, too. Nice work if players can get it, and as Serena Williams showed this week, she is ready to work hard for it.
Commentary by Christian Deverille