on February 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Sublime Serena storms to Australian Open title

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Serena Williams stole the show on Saturday, sweeping her fourth Australian Open title and snatching the world number one ranking with a lopsided thrashing of Dinara Safina.

The larger-than-life American needed just 59 glittering minutes to floor her Russian opponent 6-0 6-3, scoop A$2 million ($1.28 million) and join an elite club of players to have won at least 10 grand slam singles titles.

“That’s just uber-cool,” she grinned. “When I think of these greats I don’t necessarily think of my name, I think of them.

“This one’s right up there with all the rest of the other grand slams. I’m so excited to win, I wanted to win, I feel like I needed to win.

“The ‘Serena Slam’ would be awesome to do again,” she said of the term she coined for winning four straight grand slam tournaments in 2002-2003.

“With the way Dinara is playing and all these other girls, it will be tough but I’m in it for the challenge.”

The Australian Open is now Williams’s most successful slam. She also has three U.S. Opens, two Wimbledons and a French Open crown. Her haul places her seventh in the list of women’s grand slam title leaders, but some way behind Australian Margaret Court with 24.

“I am so excited I feel like I want to talk forever,” she giggled to the crowd before posing with the trophy for photographers and holding her finger up to denote number one.

Had world number three Safina triumphed in the final she would have instead claimed the world number one spot, but that detail seemed scarcely credible on the evidence of Saturday’s thrashing.

“I didn’t spend one hour on the court… I was just a ball boy on the court today,” said Safina, younger sister of 2005 men’s champion Marat Safin.

“She played exactly the way she had to play and she was much more aggressive and she just was taking time out of me. She didn’t even let me to come into the match.

“She’s aggressive. It’s not that you doubt yourself but she pushes you to go a little bit for more because you don’t want to give her any easy ball because you know that she will go for it.

“Either she makes it or misses, but most of the time she makes it.”

“UNBELIEVABLE TENNIS”

Williams had never in her previous nine grand slam victories lost fewer games in a final — only her 2007 triumph here over another Russian, Maria Sharapova, matched it.

“I saw it was really fast and I just thought I got to stay focused. I didn’t want to lose that focus. I thought ‘okay, Serena, she’s a warrior she never gives up.’

“Dinara is playing unbelievable tennis, she is getting to the finals or winning every tournament she’s in.”

Williams looked like she meant business from the second she stepped on court, dressed in a blue outfit to match the court surface and with a stylish yellow head-scarf holding back her hair.

Warming up she hit the ball firmly and crisply as Safina in a day-glo yellow vest top stretched to reach the shots.

Once out of the traps Williams was off, racing through the opening set in only 22 minutes. Safina managed to win only eight points in the opening set and the Rod Laver Arena crowd shuffled in their seats as Safina clipped a forehand into the net to drop the set.

There was more than a whiff of desperation on the southerly wind swirling round center court at the beginning of the second set as Safina knew she had to stop the rot or go home.

She came out swinging and when she pummeled a backhand crosscourt winner to break Williams in the first game a roar went up around the crowd looking for a contest.

All gangly arms and legs, Safina desperately fought to consolidate that break but was powerless to prevent Williams from hitting right back with a clenched fist and a nod to herself.

Williams, also doubles champion here with elder sister Venus, rolled through the next three games to stretch into a 4-1 lead as Safina threw plaintive looks to her coach in the crowd.

It was no walk in the park for Williams as the growing patch of dark blue on her outfit bore testament, but she was simply stronger, more accurate and more determined than the third seed.

Safina held to trail 4-2 and then Williams took to the service line again. She hammered down an ace to open before rolling her shoulder like a boxer loosening up.

It was not long before she delivered the knockout blow.

“Sometimes things just click,” Williams said.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)