Best of Three: Williams, Azarenka, Nadal shine in eventful week
We may be three weeks removed from the first major and three months removed from the second one. But, literally and figuratively, this was quite an eventful week in tennis ...
• Start in Doha, where Serena Williams, 31, made official what so many take as an article of faith: She is the best player in the women's game. When she beat Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals, Williams the Younger assumed the No.1 ranking yet again (the oldest No. 1 ever). She then beat Maria Sharapova, as she so often does.
But in the finals, Williams was defeated by Victoria Azarenka, the player whom she supplanted atop the rankings. Before Sunday, Azarenka hadn't beaten Williams in their previous nine meetings. She snapped her losing streak by pressuring Williams' serve, sticking with a strategy to control rallies with depth and taking advantage of her opponent's 48 unforced errors. Azarenka prevailed 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3. (She also annoyed Williams with her delays). All of which means we have the makings of a real rivalry, something the WTA has lacked in recent years.
"I feel like we're pushing each other to go to the limit every time, to step up, to improve, and that's tremendous motivation to have,'' she said. "You always know that somebody's out there wants to push you. For me, it's incredible privilege to be in that position.''
• A mere 7,500 miles away in Sao Paulo, Rafael Nadal won his first title since last year's French Open, taking the Brazil Open. In the final, he beat David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3. Nadal was alternately rusty and trusty throughout the week. There were times he looked a step slow and lacking in timing. There were other times he looked very much like an 11-time Grand Slam champion. Next up in his return after a seventh-month absence to treat his knee injuries is a tournament in Acapulco. Mexico, next week.
• Juan Martin del Potro won the Rotterdam ABN AMRO event, the 14th title of his career and -- get this -- fourth indoor title in the last year. He didn't drop his serve the entire week before the final. After suffering a nosebleed, he had to serve out the final against Julien Benneteau with a cotton plug in his nostrils. ("I have a big nose!" Del Potro said. "Maybe it was nerves, getting close to finishing the match and winning the tournament.")
Despite reaching eight finals and winning 200 matches over his career, Benneteau is still without a title. He did, however, score the biggest upset of the week, beating Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.
• Milos Raonic won the final vintage of the SAP Open, beating Tommy Haas for his third straight title in San Jose.
• Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci -- fast becoming the dominant team in the women's game -- won in Qatar.
• Madison Keys qualified for Memphis and has a winnable first-rounder against Sabine Lisicki.