Serena Williams: Star wins first WTA title in nine months

CNN  — 

At an age when most pro tennis players have retired to play exhibitions or serve up commentary on TV, Serena Williams just keeps winning tournaments.

The 34-year-old beat fellow American Madison Keys in straight sets Sunday to win the Italian Open and claim her first ATP title in nine months. The clay-court triumph, by a score of 7-6 (7-5) 6-3, cements Williams’ status as the favorite to win the French Open, which starts in a week.

“It feels great,” Williams said afterward, according to a post on the tournament website. “I feel like it was important for me to just go out there like usual. I think she’s such a powerful player.”

It was Williams’ first title since winning a tournament in Cincinnati last August. After being upset in the U.S. Open final last September – failing in her historic bid to win all four grand slam events of 2015 – she lost this year in the finals of the Australian Open and at Indian Wells in California.

Sunday’s win in Rome was the 70th title of Williams’ remarkable pro career. The promising Keys, 21, has won one.

Keys, ranked 24th in the world, led 3-1 in the opening set before Williams battled back to force a tiebreaker.

On the men’s side of the draw, Andy Murray celebrated his 29th birthday by upsetting the world’s top-ranked player, Novak Djokovic, 6-3, 6-3, to hoist the trophy. The Scot’s win broke Djokovic’s 17-match winning streak against Top 10 opponents.

It was Murray’s first-ever victory over Djokovic on clay. If the Serbian had won, he would have become the first tennis player to exceed $100,000,000 in prize money.

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Andy Murray returns the ball to Novak Djokovic during their final Sunday.