| Serena Williams after clinching the Miami Masters title with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Jennifer Capriati Saturday. (Reuters)
Miami, March 29 (Reuters): Top seed Serena Williams came back from a set down to beat Jennifer Capriati 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 and win her second consecutive Nasdaq-100 Open Miami Masters title on Saturday. It was the world No.1’s seventh straight win over Capriati, who was attempting to celebrate her 27th birthday by finally winning a tournament in which she was runner-up to Serena last year and her sister Venus in 2001.
Serena had to fight for her victory in a final lasting just over two hours in temperatures near 100 degrees Fahrenheit and in which the Heat Index Rule, allowing the players a 10-minute break at the end of the second set, was invoked.
On Friday, Capriati had produced a stunning 6-2, 6-4 win over fellow American Chanda Rubin in the semi-finals.
Although Serena was not moving around the court as fluidly as usual, and made an uncharacteristic 42 unforced errors, the holder of all four Grand Slams always seemed to have enough in reserve to deal with any threat from her fellow American. Errors began to creep into Capriati’s game in the third set and Serena took advantage of some sloppy returning as she marched on to complete her 17th straight victory of 2003.
In the men’s event, fifth seed Carlos Moya underlined his recent return to form by taming Thailand’s hard-hitting Paradorn Srichaphan 6-4, 6-2 on Friday to reach the final.
Second seed American Andre Agassi advanced to the semi-finals with a 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-1 win over Morocco’s Younes el Aynaoui while Albert Costa of Spain outlasted Switzerland’s Roger Federer 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 7-6 (9-7).
In a match of spectacular tennis, defending champion Agassi recovered from a shaky second set to beat the Moroccan. “I dug down and made him hit shots and that took the edge off his game,” said Agassi. The ninth-seeded Costa earned his semi-final berth by completing a match halted by rain on Thursday. Agassi holds a 3-1 lifetime career edge over the Spaniard.
Although Agassi failed to win the second set, he played near flawless tennis in majority of the match. Agassi committed only 11 unforced errors in the entire match and none in the third set.
In that third set, Agassi stepped up his offence, holding all four of his service games at love and breaking El Aynaoui in all but the second game.
The first set was a brilliant showing with each player holding serve as they worked their way to the tie-breaker.
Costa earlier polished off Federer in their rain-delayed encounter to reach the semi-finals. He needed precisely 12 minutes, 51 seconds on court when the pair returned to play the final 18 points after the match was suspended overnight at 6-5 deuce for the Spaniard in the third set. Costa is now into his first semi-final of the year.
Federer had his third match point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker — he had two on his serve in the tenth game which would have put him into the semis before rain washed out play on Thursday — but Costa produced a winning forehand approach and a wide Federer forehand handed him victory.
Leander Paes and his Czech partner David Rikl defeated Americans Bob and Mike Bryan 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 to enter the men’s doubles final, adds another report.
Paes and Rikl will play Belarussian Max Mirnyi, who won last year’s US Open doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi, and Swiss star Roger Federer in the final.
Federer and Mirnyi defeated Fernando Gonzales of Chile and Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4 in the other semi-final.