Serena Williams chose an excellent moment to claim her first title of the season, and thus head into next week’s French Open as a worthy favourite. Steffi Graf’s long-standing record of 22 grand slams can rarely have been more under threat. Williams has been on her game throughout the BNL Internazionali d’Italia, lifting the title without even dropping a set. But Madison Keys did give her a stern examination before slipping to a 7-6, 6-3 defeat. “I’m so proud of you,” said Williams to her compatriot as they shook hands at the net. “You’re a future No. 1 for sure.” At 21, Keys is seen as a champion in waiting in the same way as Nick Kyrgios – a close contemporary in age and even ranking. And this week has produced her best results since her run to the semi-finals of the 2015 Australian Open, which also ended in a defeat at Williams’s hands.