BRISBANE, Australia - From her serve to her groundstrokes and net play to court coverage, Serena Williams was on another level in the final of the Brisbane International on Saturday night, dominating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets in the final of the Premier-level tournament, 62 61.
Things looked like they'd be closer early on in the match, as both players held their first two service games comfortably en route to 2-all in the first set; but the No.3-seeded Williams cracked the match open with a run of seven straight games to build a 62 30 lead, and she barely looked back. She finished the 51-minute encounter against the Russian with an angled backhand crosscourt winner.
In her acceptance speech, Williams spoke of her camaraderie with Pavlyuchenkova, as the two both practiced in Mauritius as part of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy off-season training camp.
"We were both in Mauritius working so hard, and I think we're both meant to do well in a couple of weeks," Williams said, before turning to address Pavlyuchenkova personally. "I couldn't play a better person on or off of the court - it was an honor to play against you today Anastasia."
Pavlyuchenkova echoed the American's sentiment. "Congratulations Serena - amazing match," she said. "I always feel like I don't know how to play tennis when I play against you! But I think it's cool we had a final together here in the first week of the season, after our preparation in the off-season."
Williams collected her 47th WTA title, the most among active players and 10th-most all-time. She extended her winning streak to 16 matches and has now won 52 of her last 54 matches, her only losses since the start of last April coming in the first round of the French Open (to Virginie Razzano) and in the quarterfinals of Cincinnati (to Angelique Kerber). Her next tournament will be the Australian Open.
"Today was really good," Williams said. "I kind of zoned, where I'm in a really calm place and not panicking, I'm not overthinking it and not just blasting every ball. I get really calm and kind of serene.
"I was looking at a lot of old matches on YouTube and I feel like right now I'm playing some of my best tennis. I feel like I want to do better and play better still, and I've always felt like I could play better.
"It was a really good week in Brisbane, for sure," the WTA legend added. "I definitely worked hard for this week, and I'm going to do a little more work so I can be ready in eight days."
Pavlyuchenkova had taken out a pair of seeds earlier in the week - No.6 seed Petra Kvitova and No.4 seed Kerber - and was playing in her first Premier-level final. She is now 3-2 in her career in WTA finals.
Pavlyuchenkova was asked if she was maybe a little bit hard on herself in the on-court comments about feeling like she doesn't know how to play tennis when she plays against Williams.
"No it's not hard, it's true," Pavlyuchenkova replied. "This was the fourth time I've played against her and every time I go on the court feeling confident and feeling well, like today. I started the match pretty well, but when she's on fire, I feel like there's not much I can do. I was hoping to turn the match around, I was fighting every point to the end, but what I said about playing her was true. She's a great player.
"She's played thousands of finals. And she's so self-confident. All of that helps her, as well as a great serve and return. And her power, she has this power not so many girls have, it's really quite different."
The Russian still leaves Brisbane with a good feeling: "This couldn't be a better start to the year."
The doubles title went to the unseeded duo of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza, who rallied from a set down to beat No.4 seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke in a match tie-break in the final, 46 64 107. It was the pair's third WTA doubles title together, after Cincinnati in 2007 and Brussels in 2012 - Mattek-Sands now has 11 WTA doubles titles to her name, while Mirza holds 15.
"In the first week of a new season you're still kind of getting loose and getting match play in, but we were relaxed and played well this week in Brisbane," Mattek-Sands said. "It's always fun with Sania. We're best friends and always get along really well, whether we're getting ready for matches or going for dinner. I'm feeling good right now and really looking forward to the rest of the season."
Will they play together all year? "That's the plan," Mirza said. "We get along great off the court. In tight situations that friendship really helps. You trust each other. She's my best friend on the tour.
"Hopefully we'll both be healthy in 2013. We always joke that we're done with injuries now."