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October 29, 2009

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Serena wins; Dementieva stuns Venus

SERENA Williams stayed on course to end the year as world No. 1 when she beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 (6), 7-5 on the opening day of the WTA Championships in Doha, Qatar, after sister Venus suffered a shock defeat on Tuesday.

Second-ranked Serena, who must better Dinara Safina's performance here to snatch the No. 1 spot, served 11 aces under the Khalifa Stadium floodlights to get the better of the French Open champion who led 6-4 in the first-set tiebreak.

She was to play Venus in her second round-robin match yesterday knowing that victory would almost certainly eliminate her older sibling who lost 6-3, 6-7 (6), 2-6 to Elena Dementieva, the third Russian competing at the season-ending showpiece.

In the opening match in the White Group, former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia lost 2-6, 3-6 to tournament debutante Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. World No. 1 Safina was beginning her tournament against Jankovic yesterday while Azarenka and Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki were tied one set apiece at the time of going to press yesterday. Azarenka won the first set 6-1 but lost the second 4-6.

Eleven-time grand slam champion Serena, bidding to end the year top of the WTA rankings for the first time since 2002, was far from her best in a scrappy slugfest against Russian Kuznetsova.

With the match starting around 10pm local time, only a sprinkling of fans remained in the 7,000-seater center court.

Kuznetsova looked poised to win the opening set when she came back from 1-3 down in the tiebreak to lead 6-4 but a Williams winner and an ace helped the American snuff out the danger and she won the next two points to move ahead.

"At that point I thought I had ruined it for myself because I missed an easy shot to go 4-1 up in the breaker," Williams, who needed treatment on her ankle in the second set, told reporters.

World No. 3 Kuznetsova, yet to survive the round-robin stage in four appearances at the Championships, gifted Serena a break of serve at 5-5 in a tight second set with a double-fault, effectively sealing her fate.

Both Williams sisters should have been celebrating but Venus, the defending champion, was thrown off track by an inspired Dementieva who ended a five-year wait for only her third victory against the American in 12 meetings.


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