No. 1 Serena Williams rallied from a lethargic start to defeat No. 2 Li Na 7-5, 6-1 on Saturday for her record seventh Sony Open title.
After trailing 2-5 in the first set, Williams reeled off 11 of the final 12 games to win her 59th career title and second of the season. She joined Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert as the only players to win a tournament seven times.
Li served for the first set twice after opening a double-break lead. Her game didn’t waver, but Williams simply lifted her performance just in time to run away with the match, the first between them this season.
“She started out so well,” Williams said. “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, if I can just hang in there.’ Then I heard some fans trying to pull me through…. At that moment, I felt like I had nothing to lose. I was able to relax. And whenever I relax, I enjoy myself.”
It was a positive four weeks in North America for Li, who made the semifinals in Indian Wells and her first Premier Mandatory final in Miami, but the gap in power and consistency between the WTA’s No. 1 and No. 2 showed on Saturday. Williams improved to 11-1 against Li and extended her winning streak against top-10 players to 15 matches.
Game-by-game analysis below.