DUBAI, UAE - Her power game in full flight, Venus Williams stormed to her biggest title in four years at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, a clear statement she's back - and very hungry for more.
Though she has one of the all-time greatest resumes - seven-time Grand Slam champion, former No.1 - since her well-documented Sjögren's Syndrome lay-off between August 2011 and March 2012 she has been somewhat of a wildcard, scoring a number of big wins over top players and even winning her 44th WTA title in Luxembourg in 2012, but a number of early losses and withdrawals sprinkled in too.
But in Dubai, where she has always played great - she won the title the last two times she played the event in 2009 and 2010 - Williams, a No.44-ranked wildcard at this year's event, was a world-beater again, storming through the draw without even losing a set, not even being pushed to a tie-break.
In Saturday night's final Williams beat Alizé Cornet in straight sets, opening up an early 5-2 lead then - after Cornet held for 5-3 - reeling off seven games in a row to completely shut the door, 63 60.
"First of all, I think Alizé is playing great," Williams said. "I think if she continues to play like that, she's going to play deep in a lot of tournaments and keep improving. It's great to see that, because she's a great addition to the game. She brings so much passion on the court, so it's great to see her playing well. I mean, I was fully expecting to play Serena, so for her to get that win was awesome.
"But I have had a good week. Everything is falling together pretty much, is all I can say."
And on winning her first title since 2012? "Gosh, it's been like - I think the last tournament I won was at the end of 2012, so probably about 18 months now. But it feels good. That's all I can say."
"63 60 is a bit tough in an hour and 30, so I guess there was a battle on the court, but she was just better than me - that's it, really there's nothing else to say," Cornet said. "She was playing more aggressively. She was pushing me out of the court very far from the baseline. I didn't play as deep as yesterday and didn't serve as well - but Venus played well the whole week and deserves this title."
By winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Williams not only extended her winning streak at the event to three titles and 15 matches, but she also came away with her biggest title in exactly four years - her last Premier-level title came right here back in 2010. This was her 45th overall WTA title.
But Cornet has a lot to be proud of too. She snapped a 28-match losing streak to Top 10 players with a win over Simona Halep in the first round, then overturned an 0-17 record against Top 4 players with the biggest win of her career in the semifinals over the World No.1, Serena Williams. And this was also the biggest final of her career - she had only reached one Premier-level final before, at Rome in 2008, but this one had a much bigger total prize purse ($2,000,000 here compared to $1,340,000 there).
"It was a great week for me - it's always tough to finish like this, and I believed in my chances today, but I think there's a lot to be happy about, and I'm very motivated for the rest of the season."