By Jane Voigt
March 29, 2014 — Serena Williams did what Serena Williams does. She crawled, crept, then ran hell bent for the finish line. With that, the Florida native won her 7th, and unprecedented, Sony Open title defeating the No. 2 seed Li Na.
Williams’ victory represented the 14th consecutive year the Miami final featured either Serena Williams, Venus Williams (five-time winner) or Maria Sharapova (has never won here). Serena is far and above the flock with a 7-2 record in final appearances. She won in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2013, and today.
But for Li Na, the first Chinese man or woman to make the finals here in Miami, the 75 61 was not too disappointing. She joked that perhaps she should have gone out partying last night, when presented with the runners-up trophy. And she winked in her press conference when she admitted that ‘everything only looking great’ at the start.
“I don’t think I was play bad,” Li began. “I don’t think today I was doing like a wrong game plan, or playing totally wrong. I think it was a pretty good match.”
This final, which featured the top two seeds, marked the seventh time the two best women in the draw made their seeding. They are both 32, making them the oldest combined age for a Miami final. During the awards presentation, the two commiserated on the podium.
“We were talking about before the match, they say, Oh, two old women come to the final (smiling). I’m a young 32,” Li said, again smiling. “I really feel tennis has changed a little bit because it’s not only about technique. More like mentally or physical. I take more care of myself now when I come to the court.”
Williams’ win marks her 59th WTA career singles title, which is the most for all active players. Venus Williams is second to her little sister with 45.
As lucky as would folklore make you believe her seventh title is, this tournament has been won only twice by a player not ranked number one in the world. And, Williams becomes the fourth player to have won seven titles at one tournament.
But Serena didn’t look great at the start, something she says she does not plan. Her timing was rough. She didn’t move well. She signaled that her service toss was off. Li Na broke immediately and held through 5-2, as Williams double faulted to give her the green light for the set.
At the changeover, Serena thought, “I can do better at this point. My serve percentage is super, super low. I thought, okay, I can serve a little better and I can return better, and I’ve been practicing all these years and I have a good return. I need to start doing that.”
Li could not close the set, even with Williams’ first serve percentage a miserable 38%. Li gave up one break, then the second as Williams cracked cross-court return winners and zooming backhands down-the-line that left Li flat-footed. With a fierce scream, Serena tied the set 5-games all.
“So many people in the crowd were saying, Come on Serena,” Williams said. “That was such a great feeling for me. I really definitely think the crowd got me through this match.”
Serena lives part time in Palm Beach Gardens, which is not that far up the coast from Key Biscayne. She believes that her success here is partially based on a home-court love.
“I have so many friends here. I have so many fans here. I love, love, love playing here,” Williams began. “It just feels really good to play at home. For me, there is no better feeling. I also have the option to go home, which makes it a lot easier for me.”
With 17 Grand Slams and now 7 Miami titles, just what does motivate Serena Williams to continue playing?
“I just still enjoy playing,” she said. “I love the challenge. I feel like I can be the best right now, so why not continue to be the best and do the best I can?”
Mar 29, 2014 3:13 PM