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Serena Williams' latest success over Maria Sharapova saves top ranking


The women’s world No 1 position was up for grabs yesterday but it is no surprise that there were will not be a change when the updated rankings are announced today. Maria Sharapova would have regained top spot if she had won the title in Madrid, but unfortunately for the 26-year-old Russian she was up against Serena Williams.

Since Sharapova beat Williams twice in 2004, in the finals at Wimble-don and the year-end WTA Championships, the American has won all 11 of their meetings. Sharapova might have thought she was making progress when she took a set off Williams in the Miami final earlier this year, having lost in straight sets in their nine previous matches, but normal service was  resumed in the Spanish capital as the American won 6-1, 6-4 to make a successful defence of her title.

It was the 50th title of Williams’ career and her seventh on clay. Having spent nearly a year sidelined by health issues after her 2010 Wimbledon title, Williams said she was now more motivated than ever.

"Every time I play I really relish it more," she said. "I feel like: ‘Honestly, Serena, when are you going to get tired?’ I just feel so fortunate to be out there and healthy and to have an opportunity to play something, a sport, and be really good at it."

Sharapova, whose serve was broken five times, struggled to find her touch in a one-sided first set, though she made a fight of it in the second. Nevertheless, 31-year-old Williams will go to the French Open later this month as strong favourite to take Sharapova’s crown despite her shocking defeat to Virginie Razzano in the first round last year.

"It is the ultimate challenge," Williams said as she looked ahead to Roland Garros. "Whether I reach it, I don’t know. I’m not going to put that pressure on myself. I wanted it last year and I didn’t get it. I feel pressure every day. I think it’s a good thing a little bit because it means I’m still really hungry."

Before heading for Paris, Williams will play in Rome this week. She has a bye in the opening round, and will then meet the winner of today’s first-round match between her sister, Venus, and Laura Robson. Venus pulled out of Madrid last week with a back problem, while Robson  recorded the best win of her career, beating Agnieszka Radwanska, the world No 4, before losing a tight  encounter with Ana Ivanovic.