Serena Williams beats Sharapova to retain Madrid Open title

Serena WilliamsSerena Williams of the U.S. is lifted up in the air by ball boys as she poses with the Ion Tiriac's trophy after winning the Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid May 12, 2013. World number one and top seed Williams racked up the 50th title of her 18-year career when she thumped Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-4 to defend her Madrid Open crown on Sunday. (Reuters)

Defending champion Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-4 in the final of the Madrid Open Sunday to both retain her No. 1 ranking and collect her 50th career title.

With the top ranking at stake, Williams stormed out to an early lead as Sharapova struggled with her serve.

The second-ranked Russian briefly recovered her poise in the second set, but Williams' form never dipped as she eased to the title.

"I'm very happy, many thanks,'' Williams told the Caja Magica crowd in Spanish before being hoisted aloft by the ball boys to celebrate the trophy.

Williams improved her record against Sharapova to 13-2, with her only two losses coming in 2004.

It was Sharapova's first loss in a red-clay final after winning her previous seven.

Later, local favorite Rafael Nadal seeks his fifth title of the year since returning from a left knee injury against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.

The 31-year-old Williams, playing in her first red clay final since 2002, dominated Sharapova from the start as the Russian never managed to steady her erratic serve.

Sharapova committed five double faults in her first three service games, dropping the first two as Williams eased to a one-set lead. Her shaky serve let Williams gear up and land several winning drives before closing out the first set with a floating return that clipped the line.

Sharapova earned and took her first break chance to open the second set, opening up a 3-1 advantage.

But the former No. 1 ranked player's serve would again betray her as she hit another double fault to cede back her break after Williams had set up three break points with her precise groundstrokes.

Williams closed out the final after Sharapova recorded her eighth and final double fault before hitting the ball long to give up her fifth service game.

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