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October 30, 2009

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Home » Sports » Tennis

Serena seals No. 1 spot as Safina quits with injury

SERENA Williams rarely backs down in a scrap but she was spared a fight for the honor of ending the year as world No. 1 on Wednesday when her rival Dinara Safina quit the WTA Championships with injury.

The 28-year-old American was guaranteed finishing top for the first time since 2002 when Safina lasted just two games against Serbia's Jelena Jankovic in her first match at the season-ending showpiece that had been billed as the duel in the desert.

Safina, who topped the standings for more than half the year but needed to at least match Serena's performance in Doha, Qatar, to cling on to first place, made a tearful exit with a lower back injury before confirming that she would not attempt to play her other two round-robin matches.

Serena then went out and beat sister Venus in a family dust-up that ended past midnight, coming through 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a near three-hour contest that underlined the warrior instincts of the 11-time grand slam champion.

While victory virtually assured Serena of her place in the semifinals, it left Venus's hopes of retaining her title hanging by a thread after she suffered her second defeat in two days after falling to Elena Dementieva on the first day.

"2009 has been a truly memorable season for me during which I enjoyed some of my biggest career wins," Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Serena told reporters. "Capturing the yearend world No. 1 ranking is a huge accomplishment for me and I am thrilled that all the hard work has paid off."

She did, however, spare a thought for Safina despite often questioning the Russian's credentials as a world No. 1 this year on the basis that she has still to win a grand slam title.

"Dinara is such a great player that she must be really hurt because she never gives up," Serena said. "It's a shame for the tournament because it would have been great if we had both got through to the final to battle for it."

Serena, who will be No. 1 through the week beginning December 28 at least, is eighth in the list for total weeks spent as world No. 1 since the WTA rankings came into force, having spent 83 weeks at the top.

Earlier, Caroline Wozniacki saved a match point in the final set and beat Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Wozniacki, who had just two winners in the first set, saved a match point with the Belarusian leading 5-4 in the third before finally holding serve for the first time in the decider.

"I just felt like I hadn't lost the match yet," the Dane said. "She still had to win one more point."

It was Wozniacki's first match in the tournament, while Azarenka defeated Jankovic in her opener. Each group stage win is worth US$100,000, with the eventual winner taking home up to US$1.55 million.


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