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Williams duo cool in Melbourne heat

SERENA Williams achieved the first part of a 2009 Australian Open grand slam double when she teamed up with older sister Venus to win their third women's doubles title at Melbourne Park yesterday.

Serena is to play the singles final against Russia's Dinara Safina today.

The 10th seeds, who also won the title at Melbourne Park in 2001 and 2003, beat Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6-3, 6-3 to claim their eighth grand slam doubles title.

They are now tied for third on the all-time list for grand slam doubles titles, behind the pairings of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver (21) and Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva (14).

Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez also won eight titles but Venus said she and her sibling would have won more if they had played more doubles.

"We haven't played so much in the last seven years or eight years," Venus told reporters.

"If we would have played during that time, we probably would have gotten even more.

"Obviously, we had to play well (yesterday). We played a great team today. They were very tough."

With the air temperature over 40 degrees Celsius for the third successive day, organizers again closed the roof on Rod Laver Arena and the American duo hardly looked flustered, winning the first set in 38 minutes.

They continuously attacked the serve of the Slovak and Japanese, breaking on six of the eight opportunities they had, though they did not have it all their way, being broken three times.

Their superior groundstroke power and court coverage, however, proved to be the difference and they hugged each other when Sugiyama's backhand volley hit the net.

"Sometimes we stay at the baseline because we have such great groundstrokes," said Serena. "We lose sight that we need to come in. Once we come in, I think it's even more dangerous."

Meanwhile, Mahesh Bhupathi will contest both the men's doubles and mixed doubles finals after joining fellow Indian Sania Mirza in a 6-4, 6-1 semifinals win over Iveta Benesova and Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic.

Mirza and Bhupathi trailed 1-3 in the opening set before recovering to dominate the match and book a place in their second consecutive Australian Open mixed doubles final.

They will meet Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy and Andy Ram of Israel in tomorrow's final. Dechy and Ram downed Spaniards Anabel Medina Garrigues and Tommy Robredo 7-6 (7), 6-4 to reach the championship match.

Bhupathi will partner Mark Knowles of the Bahamas in the men's doubles final today against American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan.

Bhupathi has won four men's doubles and six mixed doubles grand slam titles.


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