Alfredo Falcone/LaPresse/Icon Sportswire

Serena Williams defeats Madison Keys in Rome for first title of 2016

Alfredo Falcone/LaPresse/Icon Sportswire

It took longer than anyone could have expected, but Serena Williams has claimed her first title of 2016.

Capping off a dominant tournament, Williams defeated the woman who could one day supplant her as the top American contender, Madison Keys, 7-6 (5), 6-3. For Keys, 21, it was a quality showing in the first of surely many Premier finals in her career.

The weather was a big factor at times, and, after a full week of intermittent rain, this time it was the wind, creating swirling conditions for arguably the two most powerful women on the tour.

The title is the first for Williams since Cincinnati in August, before her famous U.S. Open loss. After skipping the fall, Williams returned in 2016 by marching straight to the Australian Open final, but was stunned by Angie Kerber and fell short of tying Steffi Graf’s Open Era record 22 Grand Slams. She again fell short in Indian Wells, losing to Victoria Azarenka in the final before being upset by Svetlana Kuznetsova in Miami and withdrawing from Madrid. With her fourth Rome title, Williams has now won 70 tournaments overall:

Not that she needed to win a title to reassert herself, but she’s again the clear-cut favorite for Roland Garros, especially with Azarenka’s sudden back issues that have sabotaged her clay season thus far.

Over in the women’s doubles, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza broke their own title drought, winning their first since February. They, like Williams did last year by winning Wimbledon, are attempting to hold all four Slams at once with a French Open title.

Serena Williams defeats Madison Keys in Rome for first title of 2016
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