DOHA, Qatar (AP):
Defending champion Victoria Azarenka beat Serena Williams 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3 to win the Qatar Open yesterday, earning her 16th title and ending a 10-match losing streak against the American.
Azarenka will give up the No. 1 ranking to the second-ranked Williams yesterday, but extended her current winning streak to 14 matches, which included her second Australian Open title. More important, she may have turned around what has been a one-sided rivalry against Williams. Azarenka had not beaten Williams since 2009 in Miami, and had a 1-11 record against the American going into yesterday's final.
"It feels incredible," Azarenka said. "You know, this tournament is really great. ... It had such a strong field going into it, and I'm really glad that in the end of the week, I'm the one who's holding the trophy."
Williams praised Azarenka's performance, but insisted she still wasn't at her best. She made 48 errors against Azarenka and only converted three of her seven break points.
"This whole week, I just don't think I played my best tennis, and I was fighting every match," she said. "I can't play that quality game against a top player like Victoria. I have to be able to pick up my game and I wasn't able to do that today. I stayed at a two out of a 10 and I can't play that low."
Won her last eight finals
Williams had won her last eight finals. Still, she took comfort in the fact that she is returning to the No. 1 ranking for the first time in almost two and a half years. She becomes the oldest player to hold that title, breaking the mark previously held by Chris Evert, who was No. 1 in 1985 just shy of her 31st birthday.
"I'm definitely not happy, but I'm No. 1," she said, smiling. "It was such a long journey, and after winning Wimbledon and the US Open and the (WTA) Championships, I thought, I just don't think I can win anymore. I don't know what it takes to be No. 1. So it was awesome to come here and achieve that goal."
But with Azarenka's win yesterday, Williams' stay atop the rankings may only last one week. Azarenka can reclaim the top spot in Dubai next week if she reaches the final and Williams does not.
But the rivalry doesn't seem to prevent the players from getting along off the court, as they laughed and chatted about the upcoming Academy Awards after the trophy ceremony.
Williams said: "It's nice to always play someone that you go home and you're like, 'OK, I didn't do great, but let me work harder'. She inspires a lot of people to work harder, and definitely me."