WTA: Storming Serena sets up Qatar final with Azarenka


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 - Page 19

Serena Williams celebrated her recapture of the world No. 1 ranking with her best performance of the year in a 6-3, 6-2 trouncing of Maria Sharapova to reach the Qatar Open final on Saturday.

Spectacularly heavy hitting carried the 15-time Grand Slam title-winner into yesterday’s final against top seed and defending champion Victoria Azarenka.

Saturday’s defeat for French Open champion Sharapova was the Russian’s first in Doha where she had won the title in both her previous appearances.

Williams showed few signs of the back and ankle injuries or of the cold which had been bothering her, and it was as if regaining the top spot, as she will today, had removed the shackles from her mind and body.

It also earned Williams a final against Australian Open winner Azarenka and gives her a chance to prove she is indeed better than an opponent who will hold the top spot for just one more day.

Williams’ standard was a revelation. Gone was the heavy movement which weighed her down during her narrow escape against Petra Kvitova in Friday’s quarter-finals, and in its place was dynamic early ball hitting to follow up the best serve in the women’s game.

The 31-year-old also served far better than she had over the past week, and once Sharapova had delivered a double fault to drop serve in the sixth game Williams got on top and never looked back.

“Maria always plays well and consistently and I am just trying to be consistent as well,” said Williams, who will become the oldest woman to hold the top ranking today.

Securing the No. 1 ranking the day before “definitely took the pressure off,” Williams said.

“It was definitely the best I played here. I had to play better. I’m playing a player that’s very consistent, doesn’t lose often, just usually in finals and semis. So I had to be on my game today,” she said.

Sharapova has now lost 10 successive times to the American.

Azarenka, the only leading player in the world who remains unbeaten this year, also looked impressive, achieving her 13th successive win of the year.

The top-seeded Belarussian did that with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, a thumping result against the fourth best player in the world.