Nadal, Serena set out stall for French Open
ROME: Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams fired warning shots to their French Open rivals with comprehensive victories over Roger Federer and Victoria Azarenka respectively in Rome on Sunday.
Nadal has produced some blistering tennis since returning from a seven-month injury absence and his seventh victory in nine years on the red clay of Rome left his Swiss rival in no doubt as to the Spaniard's prospects of lifting an eighth French Open title.
While it was Federer's first final this year, it was Nadal's eighth, having swept aside Tomas Berdych a day after the big-serving Czech stunned world number one Novak Djokovic in the quarters.
It set up Federer and Nadal's 30th meeting, but with 19 defeats against the Spaniard -- 12 of which had already come on clay -- the Swiss was playing catch-up from the third game before falling to a comprehensive 6-1, 6-3 loss.
The manner of Nadal's win, and the level of his performances this week, leave no doubt as to who will be the man to beat in Paris.
But he warned that form is no guarantee against an early upset.
While Djokovic's exit arguably eased Nadal's path to victory, Federer, on the day, was no match on the Spaniard's preferred surface.
While Federer and Djokovic stand in Nadal's way, Williams is likely to face her stiffest challenge from Azarenka and defending French Open champion Maria Sharapova.
After world number two Sharapova withdrew with a fever before her quarter-final with Italy's Sara Errani, Williams cruised to the final where Azarenka, after sweeping Errani aside in the semis, suffered the same treatment in a largely one-sided affair.
It was Williams' fourth title this season, the 51st of her career and left her feeling confident she can avenge her shock first round loss in Paris last year to Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano.
Although it was Williams's second Rome title after 2002, she is determined to make sure her approach to Paris, one of her favourite cities, is different this time around. (AFP)
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