Serena Wins 10th Major, Returns to No.1
Published January 31, 2009 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - With the winner taking home a Grand Slam title and the No.1 ranking, there was a lot at stake in the final of the Australian Open on Saturday night. And although Dinara Safina had shown her talents and fighting spirit throughout the fortnight, it was Serena Williams who rose to the occasion, putting on a glorious display of power tennis for a crushing 60 63 win and her 10th Grand Slam singles title.
Williams, the second seed at the year's first major, came out on absolute fire against the third-seeded Safina, needing little more than 20 minutes to notch a bagel set. Serves, returns, forehands, backhands - a dozen winners but only two unforced errors flew off the Williams racquet. It was more of the same in the second set; Safina was able to get three games on the board but Williams was always in control, serving it out at love, a missed Safina drop shot closing out the lopsided win.
"I'm going to Disneyworld!" Williams joked afterwards. "I think I got in the zone in the last two games of my doubles match yesterday, and I didn't stop after that. I'm so excited about this victory. I just want to stay consistent and fit and keep going like this. I've always said, when I'm at my best I'm really tough to beat."
"I don't have much to say - I felt like a ballboy on the court today," a gracious Safina told the packed Rod Laver Arena crowd during the trophy presentation. "Congratulations to Serena. She played so well. To all the fans who supported me, I'm sorry I couldn't give you a better match. But I will be back next year."
Milestones keep coming for 27-year-old legend Williams
Williams has won all four of her titles at the Australian Open in the last four odd years - 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009. She is now tied with Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles for most Australian Open titles in the Open Era; she is also the fifth woman in the Open Era to win 10 or more Grand Slam singles titles, after Court, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Graf.
By virtue of winning the title, Williams will also return to No.1 in the world when the new Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Singles Rankings are published. It will be her 62nd non-consecutive week at the top of the rankings, having spent her first 57 during the 2002 and 2003 seasons, then four more straight after winning her ninth Grand Slam singles title last summer at the US Open.
"I feel like I can go forever," Williams said. "I talk to Venus, and we're always like, 'We're going to play forever.' I definitely feel like I have so many years to play. Obviously I think I'm playing pretty well, so... I think I can definitely do it."
The milestones don't stop there for Williams. Before even playing in the final she was guaranteed to become the highest-earning female athlete of all time: with her wins in the semifinals of singles and doubles, she had enough prize money coming in to surpass both Lindsay Davenport (to become the career prize money leader for women's tennis) and the LPGA's Annika Sorenstam (to become the career prize money leader for any female athlete - in any sport).
"You look at people like Billie Jean King, then you look at things in the United States called Title IX, which gave women an opportunity to play sports, and you really appreciate that. You really appreciate the people, the pioneers, the work they've done to get me in a position to have an opportunity to be called even the highest earning female tennis player. I just feel so honored that I had so many wonderful pioneers doing things to open doors. And not only for me, but you think five years from now or 10 years from now, there will probably be people earning more money than I am, because the prize money on the Tour has already gone completely through the roof this year and last year. It's gonna be even better."
As part of the blockbuster Williams sisters partnership with Venus, Serena also captured the doubles title, she and her sister's eighth Grand Slam doubles title together; they downed Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama in an entertaining two-setter in the final on Friday, stopping Sugiyama from becoming the fourth active player to earn the career doubles Grand Slam. The other three players to have achieved the feat are Lisa Raymond and, well, the Williams sisters.
Safina, Dokic enjoy breakthrough fortnights
Despite the loss, Safina won over the crowds and earned the respect of so many during her fortnight in Melbourne. Perhaps her most entertaining show came in her fourth round match, where she rallied back from 5-2 down in the third set - saving two match points down 5-4, as well - to beat rising star Alizé Cornet; she also went the distance against tournament darling Jelena Dokic, ending the run of the Australian sentimental favorite in three tough sets, 64 46 64. She then beat countrywoman and first-time Grand Slam singles semifinalist Vera Zvonareva.
"I wasn't nervous today, not even close to what I was like before the French Open final," said Safina, whose first Grand Slam final came at Roland Garros last year. "I was feeling good today. I slept well and everything was fine. But once you step on the court it's a different situation. She had been in this situation many more times than I had. She's a champion. She just proved it."
Dokic's run was surely one of the biggest stories of the tournament. Having been predominantly off the Tour for the last four years, either out of the game completely due to personal issues or trying to work her way back in the minor leagues, the former world No.4 earned a spot in the main draw thanks to an Australian wildcard play-off during the off-season, edged Tamira Paszek in the first round and barely looked back. She knocked off two Top 20 players - Anna Chakvetadze and Caroline Wozniacki - then beat another seed, Alisa Kleybanova, to reach her first Australian Open quarterfinal. She lost the aforementioned duel to Safina, but she won everyone's respect all over again, and is surely poised to make another run towards the upper echelon of the women's game.
See photos in the Photo Gallery presented by Dubai Duty Free.