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Women’s Field Wide Open at French Open

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Women’s Field Wide Open at French Open



With the exception of one Federation Cup match last year, Kim Clijsters has not competed on clay since the French Open in 2006. Nevertheless, with Clijsters triumphant at the last two majors and considering the state of the women’s game, the Belgian can play herself into form and is consequently a serious contender for the French Open trophy.

Strangely enough, Maria Sharapova is also a favorite on clay. The Russian’s victory in Rome two weeks ago demonstrates that she can power her way to a title on this surface. As such, Sharapova deserves to be in the column of players to beware of.

More so than previous years, there has been no standout on the red clay this season. Julia Goerges surprised world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the final in Stuttgart. Petra Kvitova made her debut into the top ten with her victory in Madrid, stunning world number four Victoria Azarenka.

Therefore, any one residing in the vicinity of the ten best from world number three Vera Zvonareva to Azarenka to defending champion Francesca Schiavone to Kvitova has a fair shot at hoisting the title. The French Open draw is revealed. Here’s an analysis of the key match-ups.

Wozniacki’s first round opponent is Kimiko Date-Krumm. The Japanese is know for pulling upsets at majors. Last year, she shocked Dinara Safina in the same round. As a result, Wozniacki will have no time to relax early on.

Another challenging encounter for the world number one could come in the third round where she may face 2009 French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova. Wozniacki’s progression to the final could be further complicated by 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur or Goerges in the quarterfinals and either Jelena Jankovic, Zvonareva, or Schiavone in the semifinals.

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Sony Ericsson Open Wildcards Announced

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Sony Ericsson Open Wildcards Announced


The Sony Ericsson Open has announced the wildcard entrants for this year’s tournament. American James Blake and Russian Dinara Safina highlight the list of wildcard players that will be playing at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park in Miami. On the men’s side of the draw the other wildcards include Americans Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison, Canadian Milos Raonic, and Bernard Tomic from Australia. Joining Safina on the women’s side of the draw are Heather Watson, Sorana Cirstea, Sabine Lisicki, Madison Keys, and Coco Vandeweghe. Here is the official press release from the Sony Ericsson Open tournament : BLAKE AND SAFINA HIGHLIGHT SONY ERICSSON OPEN WILDCARDS Current and rising stars are granted this year’s wildcards MIAMI, Fla. (www.sonyericssonopen.com) – The 2011 Sony Ericsson Open announced its wildcard entries and this year it features former World No. 4 James Blake and former World No. 1 Dinara Safina. A total of five wildcard slots were granted to the men’s draw and also include Jack Sock, Ryan Harrison, Milos Raonic, and Bernard Tomic. While six were given on the women’s side which feature Heather Watson, Sorana Cirstea, Sabine Lisicki, Madison Keys, and Coco Vandeweghe. Women’s main draw begins on Tuesday, March 22, while the men’s main draw kicks off the following day on Wednesday, March 23. The qualifying rounds will be held Monday and Tuesday, March 21 and 22. Tickets to the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open are on sale now and can be purchased by phone (305-442-3367) or via internet at www.sonyericssonopen.com. An electrifying two weeks of tennis conclude with the women’s final on Saturday, April 2 and the men’s final on Sunday, April 3.
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Kvitova Upends Clijsters for GDF Suez Open Trophy

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Kvitova Upends Clijsters for GDF Suez Open Trophy



Kim Clijsters intended to celebrate her ascent back to number one attained this week in reaching the semifinals at the GDF Suez Open by taking the title.  In the two prior meetings against Petra Kvitova, Clijsters dismissed the Czech 6-1,6-1 and 6-3,6-0.  Thus, it was safe to say that Clijsters held all the cards.  On this occasion, Kvitova reversed their roles and did the bullying.  Kvitova trumped Clijsters 6-4,6-3 to collect her second title this season.

In the second round, Kvitova salvaged match point to advance and wiped out a 3-5 third set deficit in the quarterfinals.  From the initial game, the confident Czech demonstrated she meant business.  With a backhand up the line winner, Kvitova had break point.  She converted thanks to a net court winner.  However, Clijsters quickly rebounded by stealing the next game.  Still, Kvitova was relentless forcing Clijsters to survive another break point before guarding serve for 2-1.  Following an easy service game, Kvitova earned double break point when Clijsters’ forehand traveled long.  On her second opportunity, Kvitova connected with a forehand return winner to bag the break for 3-2.  Then, with three forehand winners, Kvitova consolidated with a love game.  With her serve grooving, Kvitova rolled the rest of the set and with another love game served it out.

To open the second set, Kvitova crushed a forehand return crosscourt winner to obtain break point and later captured the game.  Yet, despite having two game points, as in the previous set, Kvitova failed to maintain serve.  This could have marked the time when the 20 year Czech’s crumbling started as Clijsters began to serve more effectively.  Instead, Kvitova confirmed her resoluteness to completing the task at hand.  After saving a 30 all game which included a double fault, Kvitova continued to use her bludgeoning strokes to put Clijsters on the defensive.  Subsequent to double faulting which gave Kvitova break point, Clijsters provoked a backhand crosscourt error to get to deuce.  But, by pressuring Clijsters into a forehand mistake, Kvitova secured her third break point of the game and gained the advantage when Clijsters pushed a forehand swing volley into the net.  With an ace, Kvitova sealed her service game for 5-3.  Serving to extend the match, Clijsters sent a backhand long to hand Kvitova championship point.  However, with an ace, Clijsters got back to deuce.  Next though, Kvitova pulverized a backhand causing Clijsters to lob her forehand long.  Thus, Kvitova had her second match point.  This time with a forehand crosscourt winner, Kvitova claimed the title, the third of her career.

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Midway Through Australian Open 2011:Clijsters and Wozniacki In, Henin Out

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Midway Through Australian Open 2011:Clijsters and Wozniacki In, Henin Out



The halfway mark has been reached at the Australian Open.  While Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki are still in line to collect their first major Down Under, the dream is at an end for Justine Henin and Samantha Stosur.  Here’s a look at the tournament’s past seven days.

In the top half of the draw, world number one Wozniacki coasted into the round of 16.   Despite difficult challenges from Gisela Dulko and Dominika Cibulkova, the Dane has yet to drop a set.  Wozniacki will battle Latvian talent 20 year old Anastasija Sevastova  who stunned Yanina Wickmayer in the second round.

On the other hand, Henin, a finalist last year, was dismissed in the third round by Svetlana Kuznetsova.  The 2009 French Open champion who appears to be fitter than ever will face reigning French Open victor Francesca Schiavone in the fourth round.  The latter needed three sets in each of her first two rounds.

There will be no Williams hoisting the prize this year.  Venus was forced to retire one game into her third round match with Andrea Petkovic due to a pelvic muscle injury.  Consequently, Petkovic will clash with Maria Sharapova in the round of 16. Sharapova scraped by Julia Goerges in the previous round.  With Sharapova’s serve a continual sore spot, Petkovic has a golden opportunity to reach her first quarterfinal at a major.

Both Li Na and Victoria Azarenka have been unforgiving thus far with straight sets victories to get to the round of 16.  These two will now collide for a place in the quarterfinals.

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A Tale of Two Seasons:  Serena Starts and Wozniacki Finishes

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A Tale of Two Seasons: Serena Starts and Wozniacki Finishes


Although the familiar saying states “all good things must come to an end”, when it comes to tennis it’s not necessarily the case.  While the 2010 season is over, in the blink of an eye the new one will commence.  Before turning to a fresh chapter, it’s important to reminisce and ponder what made this past year noteworthy.

At her first tournament after rejoining the tour, Justine Henin was a finalist in Brisbane.  The Belgian followed that result with a run to the final at the Australian Open.  In a compelling match, Serena Williams edged out Henin to defend her title and claimed her twelfth career major.  Despite Williams’ conquest, the road to victory was far from routine.  Thus, early indications were Williams would be fighting tooth and nail to retain the number one ranking.  Yet, in the end, injury became Serena’s speed bump rather than her fellow competitors.

Following Australia, a knee injury caused Williams to put her feet up for a few months.  In May, a healthy Serena returned to competition.  Subsequent to being stunned in the French Open quarterfinals, Williams successfully defended her Wimbledon title.  However, days after her triumph, Serena suffered a freakish foot injury.  Initially, the damage seemed inconsequential.  But, as the weeks went by, Serena withdrew from tournament after tournament and underwent surgery.  Ultimately, Wimbledon proved to be Serena’s last event of 2010.

Ironically, Serena’s similar fate befell Henin.  After being booted in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, Henin turned her focus to Wimbledon the underlying reason for her comeback.  With a title at a warm-up tournament before Wimbledon, Henin was a serious contender to capture the sole major which has eluded her. But, after easily carrying the first set against Kim Clijsters, Henin fell on her elbow and eventually loss in the round of 16.  What at first seemed an innocuous tumble prematurely terminated Henin’s year.

After being upended in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open by Na Li, Venus Williams caught a full head of steam and defended back to back titles in Dubai and Acapulco.  Then, Venus made the finals at the Sony Ericsson Open and the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open.  Consequently, Venus’ ranking peaked at number two.  Days after celebrating her 30th birthday,  the five time Wimbledon champion stepped on the grass with high hopes for a sixth crown.  However, in the quarterfinals, Venus was sent packing by Tsvetana Pironkova.  Later at the U.S. Open, Williams watched an opportunity to advance to the final evaporate, going down to Clijsters.  Bothered by a knee issue, after New York, Venus sat out the remainder of the season.

No ifs and or buts, Clijsters is back.  After besting Henin in the Brisbane final, Clijsters rebounded from an early exit at the Australian Open by thrashing Venus in the final of the Sony Ericsson Open.  Although a foot injury prevented Clijsters from participating at the French Open, the following month the Belgian reached the semifinals at Wimbledon.  Subsequent to a sensational win in the final in Cincinnati, Clijsters repeated in New York and earned her third U.S. Open title.  Clijsters capped the year with the number three ranking and the WTA Championships trophy in Doha.

In placing one’s bet at the start of 2010, Maria Sharapova, Henin and Clijsters would have been regarded as the candidates likely to supplant Serena at number one.  Instead, Williams was toppled from that spot by a great Dane.  Last year, as a runner-up at the U.S. Open, Caroline Wozniacki demonstrated that she is a legitimate rival.  With Serena sidelined by injury, Wozniacki scaled up the ranking by winning six tour titles and making the finals in Indian Wells and Doha.

Despite being halted in the round of 16 at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, the quarterfinals at the French Open and the semifinals at the U.S. Open, consistency week in and week out was the key to Wozniacki taking over at number one.

Another individual who had a spring in her step in 2010 is Vera Zvonareva. The Russian followed her first major final at Wimbledon with another at the U.S. Open.  Although Zvonareva fell to Serena and Clijsters respectively, because of her phenomenal performance, Zvonareva shot up to the number two ranking.

Other names to come into the spotlight this season include twenty year old Petra Kvitova who stunned Victoria Azarenka and Wozniacki before being knocked out in the Wimbledon semifinals by Serena.  Along with Li, countrywoman Jie Zheng advanced to the semifinals at the Australian Open.  Perhaps the unlikeliest ones to rise above the fray were veterans Francesca Schiavone and Samantha Stosur.

After beating Henin, Serena and Jelena Jankovic at the French Open, 26 year old Stosur booked her maiden major final spot.  With a victory over Wozniacki in the quarterfinals, Schiavone sauntered into the French Open final as a result of Elena Dementieva retiring in the semifinals with a calf injury.  First time major finalist Schiavone took full advantage of her good fortune.  Less than a month prior to her 30th birthday, Schiavone prevailed over Stosur becoming the first Italian woman to win a major.

In doubles, Serena and Venus triumphed in the finals at the Australian and French Opens while Wimbledon and the U.S. Open were claimed by the new pair of Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova.  The number one doubles team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber had an acrimonious divorce in April.  With the break up of Huber and Black and injuries affecting the Williams’, Flavia Pennetta and Gisela Dulko with six titles and the WTA Championships trophy ended the year as the top doubles team.

For the second consecutive year, Italy dismissed the U.S. to take the Federation Cup. Former French Open champion and world number one Ana Ivanovic redeemed her season by pocketing the Tournament of Champions trophy in Bali and reintegrating herself in the top twenty.  Nothing but bad news for former world number one Dinara Safina.  Limited by a back problem, Safina hardly played and finished the year ranked 63rd.

At the WTA championships, Dementieva dropped a bomb announcing her retirement after her last round robin match.  The 2008 Olympic gold medalist and two time major finalist felt at 29 years of age the time had arrived to seal this phase of her life and move on to another.

It is impossible to dissociate 2010 from 2011 with injury already a factor in the year to come.  With her foot still on the mend, Serena proclaimed she will not defend her Australian Open title.  As such, the first major of the year will be up for grabs.  Will Clijsters seize her first major other than the U.S. Open?  Can Wozniacki silence all doubters and show she really belongs at the top spot?  Will Zvonareva draw on the positives from 2010 and take the final step to the major’s winner circle?  Will it be Sharapova or Henin reliving their past success down under?  In contemplating the outcome of the Australian Open, the permutations seem infinite.  With all these questions, the first major portends that the upcoming season will be a fascinating one to follow.

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Serena and Venus Head the Field at 2010 French Open

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Serena and Venus Head the Field at 2010 French Open


Today, the French Open draw was revealed.  Because Serena and Venus Williams are the top two seeds, the possibility of an all Williams final exists. However, with Justine Henin, a four time champion, a potential quarterfinal rival for Serena and Venus perhaps seeing Aravane Rezai or Nadia Petrova in the round of 16, the list of spoilers is extensive.  Here’s a snapshot of the likely key match-ups which may eventually determine the victor.

After months of being a spectator, Serena rejoined the tour in Rome where she reached the semifinals. Despite an early exit in singles in Madrid,  Serena got reacquainted with the surface by prevailing in doubles along with Venus.  Serena’s first obstacle would come in the form of Marion Bartoli in the round of 16 since she would play a denizen. Still, Serena’s biggest hindrance lies in the quarters.  Serena lost to Henin, the eventual champion, in 2003 and 2007.  On the other hand, that match may not materialize as Henin could battle Maria Sharapova in the third round.  Samantha Stosur, a semifinalist in 2009 and the titlist in Charleston this year, is another potential tough quarterfinal opponent for Serena.

Following Serena, Jelena Jankovic is the next highest seed in the top half of the draw.  With players such as Dinara Safina, Yanina Wickmayer and Vera Zvonareva returning from injury on Jankovic’s side of the draw, she should have an uneven full path to the quarters.  Agnieszka Radwanska or Ana Ivanovic could be Jankovic’s quarterfinal adversary.  Since her glorious days at Roland Garros in 2008, Ivanovic has slipped.  For the first time in months, Ivanovic showed true signs of life with a semifinal posting in Rome.  Perhaps it will take Paris to completely get Ivanovic out of her slump.

Venus Williams and defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova flank the bottom half of the draw.  So far this year, Kuznetsova’s results have been mediocre. Consequently, for Kuznetsova, it is safe to deduce that a replay of 2009 is a long shot.  In the first round, Kuznetsova faces a difficult opponent, Sorana Cirstea.  Should she move on, Maria Kirilenko could upset her in the third round.  Li Na and Francesca Schiavone could trouble Kuznetsova in the round of 16.  Moreover, legitimate stumbling blocks in the quarters for Kuznetsova include Flavia Pennetta, Lucie Safarova, Alexandra Dulgheru and Caroline Wozniacki.

On the other hand, Wozniacki, the third seed, has been hampered by an ankle injury since Charleston.  For that reason, Wozniacki has failed to make an impact after winning in Ponte Vedra Beach.  In the third round, Wozniacki may see Dulgheru and Pennetta or Safarova in the fourth round. Considering the caliber of those rivals, it’s doubtful that Wozniacki has lasting power.

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Quelle Surprise: Rezai Ambushes Venus in Madrid Final

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Quelle Surprise: Rezai Ambushes Venus in Madrid Final


For the second consecutive week, an unseeded player rules at a premier clay event.  In the finals of the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai stunned world number three Venus Williams.  Rezai prevailed 6-2, 7-5 over Williams to capture the grandest title of her blooming career.

After breezing through her initial game, at 1 all, Venus made an error on game point leading to deuce.  Later, by sending a forehand out of play, Venus gave Rezai a second break point.  When Williams netted a backhand, Rezai took a 2-1 lead.  Subsequent to a double fault, Rezai provoked four straight miscues from Williams and consolidated for 3-1.  Then, with Venus serving at 2-4, she produced her second double fault of the game to hand Aravane double break point.  With a crosscourt forehand return winner, Rezai extended her lead to 5-2.  Thereafter, with a love game, Rezai grabbed the first set.

The previous set, Rezai won 100% of her first serve points.  If Williams intended to turn this match around, she would need the Frenchwoman to cool off.  After Venus held, in a game that included a double fault, Rezai had a backhand go long permitting Williams her initial break chance of the match.  With an ace, the Frenchwoman erased that deficit.  By converting a forehand crosscourt winner, Williams had a fourth break point opportunity.  Venus cashed in when Aravane’s backhand crosscourt misfired.  However, the next game, a lack of first serves allowed Rezai to break back.  Subsequently, a backhand up the winner handed Venus another break point.  Williams took a 3-1 edge when Rezai’s forehand traveled long.

Despite dealing with a break point, Williams consolidated for 4-1.  Soon, Venus had two chances to get a double break lead, yet, Rezai hung tough to keep the margin to one break.  Serving at 2-5, with an error, Rezai gifted Williams her first set point. Once more, the Frenchwoman goaded the miscues from her opponent to remain in the set. With a string of mistakes by Venus, Aravane manufactured two break points and by connecting on a forehand down the line winner got back on serve at 4-5.  Following, Rezai wiped out five additional set points by Williams to level things at 5 all.  That ultimate game proved a back breaker for Williams.  After a backhand pass winner by Rezai, Williams made two backhand errors to face 0-40.  With another backhand miscue by Venus, Rezai secured a 6-5 advantage.  As the backhand continued to leak, Rezai obtained double championship point.  Finally, by provoking a forehand mistake by Williams, Rezai pocketed the trophy.

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Just Like Old Times: Henin Pockets First Title Since Return

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Just Like Old Times: Henin Pockets First Title Since Return


After runner placements in Brisbane and the Australian Open, Justine Henin captured her first title since rejoining the tour.  At the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, a premier indoor clay tournament, Henin prevailed over Samantha Stosur 6-4,2-6,6-1 in the finals.

Both Stosur and Henin entered as wildcards.  While the latter was unseeded, the former was seeded 7th and won 11 successive matches including a clay title in Charleston.  The first four games, each player readily held serve.  At 2 all, with a backhand down the line winner, Stosur had game point.  By connecting on a backhand down the line return, Henin leveled things at deuce.  After provoking an error from Stosur on a second game point, because of a double fault, Henin had break point.  With a strong forehand return, Henin forced another mistake from Stosur to seize the break.  As Henin served at 4-3, Stosur effaced a game point for deuce by forcing a forehand miscue.  Subsequently, Stosur manufactured a break point.  Henin got out of jail with a good serve and eventually held for 5-3.  Later, on her second set point, Henin bagged the first set.

As a result of a flubbed forehand volley, Stosur faced double break point in the second set.  However, Stosur rebounded with a myriad of good serves to hold for 2-1.  Next, serving at 2 all, by netting a backhand, Stosur stared at her third break point this set.  Again with a couple of huge serves, Stosur remained on track at 3-2.  Then, after Henin netted a forehand, Stosur had her initial break point.  Henin escaped with a decent serve. Next, with a forehand crosscourt pass winner, Stosur fabricated her second break point which she converted when Henin erred with a forehand up the line.  After consolidating for 5-2, with a forehand up the line winner, Stosur broke to take the set.

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Jankovic Whomps Wozniacki in Indian Wells Final

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Jankovic Whomps Wozniacki in Indian Wells Final


Prior to this tournament, Jelena Jankovic had been in a slump with a 5-4 record.  The Serb had been ousted twice this year in the first round at two different events.  Jankovic made up for some of the hardship today by beating Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4 in the finals of the BNP Paribas Open to claim her 12th career title.

From the first game, Jankovic demonstrated that she would be taking the driver’s seat and not allow Wozniacki a turn at the gas pedal.  When Caroline netted a backhand crosscourt, Jankovic had break point.  The Serb converted when the Dane sent a forehand long.  After easily consolidating, Jankovic induced a backhand crosscourt error from Wozniacki to set up double break point.  Jelena took a 3-0 lead when Caroline had another backhand miss its mark.  In the subsequent game, Wozniacki applied pressure and got to deuce, but the Dane could not reach break point.  After getting on the board at 1-4, Wozniacki provoked a few forehand miscues from Jankovic to obtain one of the breaks back.  However, the next game, Caroline committed three straight forehand mistakes for triple break point, then gifted Jelena the game with a backhand volley error.  As Jankovic served for the set, Wozniacki had another break point opportunity, but, with error after error resistance was futile.  Jankovic wrapped up the set when Wozniacki pushed a backhand long.

In the second set, Jankovic was off again to a great start as a backhand crosscourt pass winner gave her triple break point.  When Wozniacki mistimed the forehand, Jankovic secured the break.  Then, with a swift service hold, Jankovic jumped to a 2-0 advantage.  Although the Danish teenager kept in touch with Jankovic by staying only one break behind, she never manufactured a break point the entire set.  Serving at 5-4, with a backhand down the line winner, Jankovic arrived at double championship point.  When another Wozniacki return went off course, Jankovic seized her first BNP Paribas Open Indian Wells trophy.

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Confidence Booster:  Venus Defends Dubai Title

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Confidence Booster: Venus Defends Dubai Title


dubai_logoVenus Williams has been turned away her last three finals while Victoria Azarenka has prevailed in three consecutive finals.  In the 10th edition of the Dubai Tennis Championships, third seed and defending champion Venus met fourth seed Victoria for the ultimate match.  Williams came out on top 6-3, 7-5 for her 42nd  WTA career title.

Williams had been supreme this week, winning all her matches in straight sets.  In the quarters, Williams defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who had beaten her two times in a row.  From the first game, Williams was impressive with a forehand crosscourt winner for 40-0.  Serving at one all, Venus crushed a backhand down the line pass to hold for 2-1.  After a love game for 3-2, Williams forced Azarenka into two forehand errors for double break point.  Venus was gifted a double fault for 4-2.  However, serving for the set at 5-3, Venus committed two double faults.  Then, with a forehand crosscourt winner by Azarenka, Williams faced break point.  Yet again, Williams rifled some big serves to bail herself out, thereby carrying the set.

Still on the attack, Venus provoked Victoria into a couple of backhand miscues for double break point to open the second set.  Williams captured the break when Azarenka made her third consecutive backhand mistake.  With a couple of forehand winners, Venus easily took the next game.  Serving at 0-2, Azarenka missed a lob and went down 15-30.  Under pressure, Azarenka produced a couple of forehand winners to maintain a single break deficit.  With Williams consistent on the forehand side, Azarenka could make no headway.  But, Victoria’s opportunity finally arrived at 2-3 when Venus muffed a couple of strokes squandering two game points.  Afterwards, Williams double faulted giving Azarenka break point.  Victoria cashed in when Venus’ forehand sailed long.

The next game, despite Azarenka’s first serve letting her down, she held for 4-3.  The following few games, each woman guarded serve without complication.  However, at 5 all, Azarenka found danger.  By Venus chasing down every ball, Azarenka’s backhand coughed up errors leading to double break point.  With a forehand up the line winner, Williams grabbed a 6-5 edge.  After Azarenka saved two match points, Williams had a third with an Azarenka backhand miscue.  With two net courts in the same rally going in Venus’ favor, she sealed the title when Victoria dumped a volley into the net.

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