Serena routs Dementieva in final

Updated: April 4, 2004, 9:53 AM ET
Associated Press

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Serena Williams skipped and grinned and blew kisses, a little surprised to be a champion so soon after an eight-month layoff following her Wimbledon title.

The boldest, brashest player in women's tennis exceeded even her own expectations at the Nasdaq-100 Open. Williams culminated her Key Biscayne comeback Saturday with a performance worthy of her Wonder Woman outfit, routing Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-1.

Graf vs. Serena
(after 67 career events)
Graf Serena
Age 18 yrs, 10 months 22 yrs, 6 months
Win PCT .841 .853
Titles 22 24
Grand Slams 2 6
The 50-minute women's final was the most one-sided in the 20-year history of the tournament.

"I think the rust has definitely worn off," Williams said. "Honestly, I didn't expect to win my first tournament back."

The top-seeded Williams, returning from knee surgery Aug. 1, lost just one set en route to her third consecutive Key Biscayne title. And she was at her most overwhelming against Dementieva.

"She's a great player," Dementieva said, "and it's just amazing how well she played after this break."

Williams wore the tank top and hot pants she refers to as her Wonder Woman ensemble, and she looked the part, winning 12 consecutive points early to take control and running off 11 consecutive games.

The last top woman to win a title in her first tournament following a layoff of at least six months was Monica Seles, who was sidelined more than two years after being stabbed and won her first comeback event in Toronto in 1995.

"I used her as inspiration," Williams said. "I thought, 'If Monica can do it, maybe I can at least win a few rounds.'''

Williams is from nearby Palm Beach Gardens, and Andy Roddick hopes home-court advantage will help in the men's final Sunday. As a youngster, Roddick made the one-hour trip down I-95 from his home in Boca Raton to watch tennis on Key Biscayne, sitting in the upper deck.

He'll have a courtside seat Sunday -- but only during changeovers. Roddick will play Guillermo Coria, with both seeking their first title in the event.

To reach the final, the No. 2-seeded Roddick needed a pair of three-set victories, pulling out his quarterfinal only when Carlos Moya became rattled nearing the finish. No. 3 Coria has played three three-set matches and overcame four match points to beat Fernando Gonzalez in the semifinals.

"As lucky as I am to be in the final, Coria has used about three of his nine lives so far," Roddick said with a laugh. "We both probably shouldn't be here.''

Williams encountered little resistance on her way to the women's title, partly because the field was unusually weak. She slipped to sixth in the rankings during her layoff and benefited at Key Biscayne from the absence of all five players ranked ahead of her, including No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne, the last player to beat Williams.

Also missing was Kim Clijsters, who spent three months at No. 1 last year. Dementieva upset Venus Williams in the quarterfinals to spoil a potential all-Williams final.

"I don't care who I play," Serena said. "I'm going to play them sooner or later."

The No. 5-seeded Dementieva was overmatched and hardly looked like the player who survived a match point to beat Venus Williams.

"It's a shame I don't have a younger sister to play for me today," Dementieva said with a smile.

The Russian, plagued by a shaky serve throughout the tournament, totaled three aces and 57 double faults in six matches. She had no aces and nine double faults against Williams, and won only one of 19 points on her second serve while losing all seven service games.

"I'm glad I lost so easy, because now I'm going to work on my serve and improve my game," Dementieva said. "I realize if I want to win a tournament, I have to be stronger. I have to play better in a final and not like today."

Williams lost the opening game when she committed six unforced errors, and twice was called for a foot fault. Otherwise the performance was her most polished of the tournament.

"I'm back," said Williams, who received $400,000. "As long as I'm healthy, then I'm definitely still a top competitor."

The victory gives her family six titles at Key Biscayne. Venus Williams, who watched the final and took pictures of the trophy ceremony, also has won the event three times.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press