Serena Williams proved the break between seasons has not hurt her momentum in any way, capturing her 47th career title with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-1 victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova yesterday in the Brisbane International final.
Williams has won 35 of her past 36 matches, including titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics, the US Open, the season-ending championship and now the first event of this year.
The 15-time Grand Slam champion already has won the Australian Open five times, and with the season’s first major a little more than a week away, she is in good shape to add another one.
In a tournament featuring eight of the top 10 female players, not one women’s match in Brisbane featured seeded players against each other due to a series of injuries and upset losses.
Williams missed a chance to extend her 11-1 winning record against top-ranked Victoria Azarenka when the 23-year-old Belarussian withdrew half an hour before their scheduled semi-final on Friday night due to an infected toe on her right foot.
Azarenka was more concerned about being ready for the Australian Open.
The night off obviously did not bother Williams, who dominated the final after breaking No. 36-ranked Pavlyuchenkova in the sixth game.
She went on a roll, conceding only three points in the last three games of the first set during a seven-game run until Pavlyuchenkova finally held serve in the fourth game of the second set.
The match was all over in 50 minutes, with Williams firing nine aces and hitting 24 winners compared with only one ace and nine winners for her rival.
“I always feel like I don’t know how to play tennis when I play against you,” Pavlyuchenkova told Williams at the trophy presentation.
Accustomed to victory as she is, Williams started as usual by thanking the sponsors, God, organizers, the fans and started to thank her dad, Richard.
“This is getting so routine, I’m saying ‘my dad’ and he’s not even here,” Williams said, slapping her forehead as she laughed, before finishing off her list of people to thank.
The 31-year-old Williams can regain the No. 1 ranking if she wins the Australian Open later this month.
And if she does, she will be the oldest woman to hold the top spot on the women’s tour. Chris Evert set the mark in November 1985, aged 30 years, 11 months and three days.
In the men’s draw, defending champion Andy Murray advanced to the final when fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori retired with an injured left knee while trailing 6-4, 2-0 in their semi-final earlier yesterday.
The Olympic and US Open champion will next meet 21-year-old Grigor Dimitrov, who reached his first ATP Tour final with a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7/5) victory over Marcos Baghdatis.
AP, SHENZHEN, China
Top-seed Li Na of China secured a hard-fought 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 victory over Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic yesterday to capture the inaugural Shenzhen Open.
Taiwanese sisters Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan claimed the doubles title, beating Irina Buryachok of Ukraine and Valeria Solovieva of Russia 6-0, 7-5.
Additional reporting by staff writer
Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska began her Australian Open preparations in winning style, accounting for 2010 champion Yanina Wickmayer to claim the Auckland Classic title yesterday.
The world No. 4, who had not dropped a set throughout the tournament on the central Auckland courts, beat the 23-year-old Belgian 6-4 6-4 to claim her 11th WTA tour title.
Both players had trouble with their serve in the first set, with Wickmayer, who had problems with her ball toss in the windy conditions, broken in just the third game.
The Belgian, however, managed to get back into the match when she broke to level at 4-4 only for Radwanska to break back immediately and then serve out to take the set in 45 minutes.
Wickmayer, who was told by her coach to start treating the game as a practice session and just go for her shots and not worry about the Pole’s retrieving ability, made a strong start in the second set taking a 2-0 lead.
Radwanska’s consistency under pressure, however, proved the telling point in the second set, as she consistently kept the ball in play and waited for the tall Belgian to commit errors.
Wickmayer managed to delay the inevitable when she saved four match points on her own serve in the ninth game of the set, but was unable to stop Radwanska from sealing the title in the next game.