Tue, May 15, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Federer, Williams claim Madrid titles

CONTRASTING VICTORIES:Roger Federer fought back from a set down to claim the world No. 2 ranking, while Serena Williams crushed Victoria Azarenka

AP, Madrid

Serena Williams of the US returns to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the Madrid Open women’s singles final in Madrid, Spain, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Roger Federer climbed back to world No. 2 in the rankings after rallying to beat Tomas Berdych 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 and win the Madrid Open for a third time on Sunday.

Earlier, Serena Williams overpowered top-ranked Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 6-3 to win the women’s final.

While Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had blamed the new blue-clay court for their early exits, Federer’s biggest obstacle was to overcome an opponent who had beaten him in three of their previous five meetings.

“It is amazing to win here again,” said Federer, who will overtake Nadal as the second-ranked player behind Djokovic. “It has been a tough tournament. Tough to move, but you’ve got to try to make the most of it. Here there was some good tennis and some bad tennis, but you see that in all tournaments.”

Berdych hit 14 winners and made just two unforced errors in a dominant first set, but Federer finally found his ground game and broke Berdych twice to even the score and force the decisive third set, where he secured victory after Berdych had saved three championship points.

The sixth-seeded Berdych jumped out to a 3-0 lead after hitting a cross-court return to take Federer’s first service game.

Federer, who won in Madrid in 2006 and 2009, saved two set points, before Berdych clinched the first set with a big serve that the Swiss star could only knock back into the net.

Federer continued to struggle with his shot-making, but the 16-time Grand Slam winner leveled the match by breaking twice in the second set, including when Berdych hit a double fault on set point.

“It was a tough tournament and a brutal draw. Tomas played very well,” Federer said. “I’m sure we will see each other many more times and they will be quality matches like this one.”

Berdych, who had carried the initiative through most of the match, became erratic as the pressure grew in the decider.

Serving to send the match to a tiebreaker, he fell behind 0-40 and then rallied back to force deuce, only to hit long and then net his final volley to end the match in a little more than two-and-a-half hours.

The former top-ranked Federer has not been higher than world No. 3 since March last year.

“I want to congratulate Roger. He showed that he is really the star,” Berdych said.

In a clash of two of the WTA Tour’s heaviest hitters, Williams battered Azarenka around the court with her big serve and vicious return to take the first four games and she never looked back.

Williams served 14 aces on her way to her 41st career title and her second of the season, as she remained unbeaten in her past 13 matches on clay.

The loss ended Azarenka’s run of winning her last four tournaments.

“I can still do better,” Williams said when asked if she had found her best form following her return from a lengthy absence due to illness last year. “This is really good. I have been working hard. I had some tough battles and really unfortunate circumstances, so I really love this.”

Williams broke Azarenka’s first service game when the Australian Open winner could only stab her powerful return into the stands.

Williams’ strong start left Azarenka shaken and she hit three double faults to cede her serve again and trail 3-0.

The flustered Azarenka netted a forehand after Williams had fallen on the slick surface and left the entire court open. She then produced another double fault to cap a disastrous first set.

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