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November 3, 2009

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Home » Sports » Tennis

Fit Serena confirms top-gun status

WOMEN'S tennis appears to be in good shape despite the sight of the world's best players limping across the finish line in Doha, Qatar, last week, where the WTA Championships often resembled a dance of the walking wounded.

It was survival of the fittest in searing heat and suffocating humidity and while others wilted, American Serena Williams proved again that when she is fit and really wants something, she is still top of the food chain.

A slightly lighter schedule than some of her main rivals - she played 18 tournaments compared to the 27 for world No. 4 Caroline Wozniacki - was in evidence as Williams stormed to the Doha title to ensure she will end the year as world No. 1 for the first time since 2002.

Like the skyscrapers that are sprouting out of the desert in Doha's dusty suburbs, the 28-year-old, who claimed her 10th and 11th grand slam singles titles this year in Melbourne and London, still looms large over the women's game.

She was virtually faultless at the Khalifa Tennis Center where she pocketed almost one million pounds (US$1.64 million), winning five matches in six days for the loss of just one set, that against sister Venus in their round-robin clash.

"I wanted to stay consistently fit this year," said Williams, whose brilliant year may yet end with a bitter ITF punishment for her foul-mouthed tirade at a female line judge at the US Open.

"I had a little hiccup in March, but I put myself back together and I kept going."

By the time they met again in Sunday's final, Venus's tank was empty while Serena was merciless, giving up just seven points on serve in her 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory. Her post-match comment that she didn't expect to win the title fooled nobody. She is back where she feels she belongs.

Despite the WTA's new road map that has lessened the load for the game's top players, the US$4.5 million Doha showpiece was marred by injuries and rows of empty seats. Hardly a player in the draw, it seemed, did not require the on-court physio and local bandage suppliers would have done a roaring trade as knees and thighs were strapped.

Of the 10 players who took part, four pulled out, including Wozniacki against Serena and Belarusian Victoria Azarenka against Agnieszka Radwanska, who replaced Vera Zvonareva - who replaced Dinara Safina.

Nonetheless, Wozniacki and Azarenka provided the match of the tournament, a three-hour ding-dong that showed they will be pushing hard for grand slam titles next year. So too will Kim Clijsters, the Belgian mum who returned in spectacular fashion to win the US Open, and her compatriot Justine Henin who also decided that a life away from the adrenaline-fuelled world of top flight tennis was not for her.

The WTA will hope that the rich pool of talent at its disposal helps win over a new sponsor should mobile phone company Sony Ericsson decide not to renew its lucrative six-year deal that runs out at the end of next year.


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