Serena defends Madrid title, retains top ranking

With the world No. 1 ranking at stake, Serena Williams left no doubt as to who is the best player on the women's circuit.

The top-seeded Williams successfully defended her Madrid Open title and continued her head-to-head dominance against Maria Sharapova with a 6-1, 6-4 win in Sunday's final.

Williams played nearly flawless tennis while breezing through the opening set on the outdoor red clay court at the Magic Box.

The second set was much more competitive, with Sharapova breaking the American's serve in the first game. She later took a 3-1 lead with a love service game.

However, a double fault by Sharapova gave the 15-time Grand Slam champ a break point that leveled the set at 3-3.

The 31-year-old Williams fought off a break point in the next game before holding. She held at love for a 5-4 lead, then retained the top ranking and captured her 50th career title when the second-seeded Sharapova followed up the last of her eight double faults with a misfired forehand.

Williams, who played her first final on red clay since 2002, improved to 13-2 against Sharapova. She has won 12 straight meetings, including a three-set decision in the Miami title bout back in March, since losing in the final at the 2004 WTA Championships.

Sharapova suffered her first loss in eight career clay court finals. The setback also ended a 25-match winning streak on red clay.

The 26-year-old Russian star had not dropped a set en route to her 50th career final.