By Steve Gorten
KEY BISCAYNE – Serena Williams took less time to throttle Carla Suarez Navarro and capture her eighth Miami Open championship Saturday than some fans spent fighting traffic to get to the match.
On a sunny, sizzling afternoon in South Florida, the world’s No. 1 ranked women’s player scorched the 12th-ranked Suarez Navarro with one blistering winner after another in a surgical 6-2, 6-0 dissection on stadium court.
“It feels really good to have eight under my belt,” Williams said. “Can’t say I thought I would win eight, especially in the beginning of the week. It just feels really weird. It definitely feels good, and I’m happy to be able to get through it.”
The match lasted 56 minutes, the second set just 24. Williams joined Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Chris Evert as the only players to win the same WTA title at least eight times, winning her third consecutive at Crandon Park Tennis Center while boosting her unbeaten streak here to 18 consecutive matches. She has a 73-7 record all-time at the Miami Open.
Williams said she’d put this year’s trophy in her father’s house. Richard Williams wasn’t able to attend the last three days of the tournament for personal reasons.
“Each one is special,” Williams said of her titles here. “Some finals are long. Some finals have been shorter. But it doesn’t matter. At the end, each one is a lot of hard work. It’s just [about] standing there and being successful.”
The 33-year-old American once again dominated the 26-year-old Spaniard, who will make her top-10 debut at No. 10 when the new rankings are released. In five head-to-head meetings, all won by Williams, Suarez Navarro has won just 12 games combined.
She won just five points in the second set Saturday. Williams captured 23 of 25 points during one stretch.
This matchup was expected to be more competitive than their previous four after Suarez Navarro defeated No. 22 seed Alize Cornet, No. 7 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 16 seed Venus Williams and No. 9 seed Andrea Petkovic in succession to reach her first Miami Open final and eighth overall.
She became the lowest ranked/seeded player to reach the Miami Open final since 2011.
Williams, who was unsure she’d even defend her title here after withdrawing from the semifinals at Indian Wells because of an injured knee, had dropped a set in each of her past two matches against No. 27 seed Sabine Lisicki and No. 3 seed Simona Halep.
“The big thing was the rest and just regaining my confidence,” Williams said. “I had a couple matches where I had nearly 60 unforced errors in both, so I just needed to get my mind back and say, ‘Serena, you normally don’t play like this, so just go to how you normally play.’”
Saturday’s match started with Williams and Suarez Navarro splitting the first two games, with each holding serve. It was 30-all in the fifth game when Williams ripped back-to-back aces. She broke Suarez Navarro’s serve the next game, and did so again on all of Suarez Navarro’s four remaining service games.
“When I play with Serena, I know that she’s the best,” Suarez Navarro said. “She has the game to make me play bad. This time, I believed in me, in how I’ve played the other matches. I tried. I tried until the last point, but it was difficult for me.”
Williams finished with 29 winners in just 14 games compared to three for Suarez Navarro. She had 11 unforced errors, eight fewer than Suarez Navarro.
“She has a style of game that is not good for me,” Suarez Navarro said. She added of Williams, “She always wants to win more and more and be the best. I don’t know how old she is, but she wants all the time to be the best, to be No. 1.”