Charleston: S. Williams d. Safarova
CHARLESTON, S.C.—With the smell of blowout still wafting through the azure sky, the bonnet-and-pastel crowd was within its right to wonder if another rout was in the offing. Serena Williams had just won the first five points of an Easter Sunday final at the Family Circle Cup, the last via a Lucie Safarova double fault. Well before this 58-minute match was officially completed, we had our answer. Serena’s latest demolition, this one a 6-0, 6-1 decision, ended with an ace and concluded perhaps the most un-dramatic weekend in pro tennis history.
Safarova’s Saturday shutout of Polona Hercog implied that today’s match would be more competitive than Serena’s 6-1, 6-1 semifinal thrashing of Sam Stosur. The American favorite didn’t get the hint. Serena again used her backhand to great effect, especially on the return, and her flat forehand was even better. The left-handed Safarova seemingly had a shot at the upset because of her natural tendency to hit her cross court forehand to her opponents’ backhand side. That certainly earned her a few points, and there were many multiple-deuce games. But Serena’s backhand didn’t break down, it simply helped her break Safarova a whopping five times.
Despite winning one fewer game overall, I actually thought Safarova played Serena better than Stosur did. The Czech made more inroads on Williams’ serve, and if not for some timely serving—an ace erased a break point in the third game, and Serena saved three break points when up 4-0—the match could have been more competitive on the scoreboard, at the very least. Like a rerun, the rallies were entertaining, even if the outcome wasn’t in doubt. Considering Serena’s current form, Safarova realistically needed to paint the lines with most of her shots; hitting through the 2008 Charleston champ proved impossible. With no room for error, Safarova hit too many, and the final was a forgone conclusion by the eighth game, when Serena took a 6-0, 2-0 lead.
Serena’s commanding performance is just the newest compelling storyline this year in the WTA. There’s Victoria Azarenka, a dominating No. 1. There’s Agnieszka Radwanska, who broke through by winning the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams have posted surprisingly impressive results. And Serena has been beaten by Caroline Wozniacki, so maybe there’s something there. We’ll see where it takes us, but the tour still needs one thing: A compelling final. The Australian Open, Indian Wells, and Miami ended with a whimper, but those one-sided matches were cliffhangers compared to this latest final-round rout.