BRISBANE (AP) ― Serena Williams showed she has carried her momentum from 2013 into the new season, beating No. 2-ranked Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 7-5 on Saturday to defend her title at the Brisbane International and set the tone for the Australian Open.
The top-ranked Williams extended her winning streak to 22 matches with the emphatic win over the reigning Australian Open champion, making it back-to-back victories over two of her main rivals. She beat four-time major winner Maria Sharapova in straight sets in the semifinals.
The year’s first major starts Jan. 13 at Melbourne Park and Williams, who won 78 of her 82 matches and collected 11 titles last year, is positioning herself as the favorite to claim a sixth Australian title.
She improved to 14-3 against Azarenka, who beat Williams in two finals last year and was the last person to defeat the American ― at Cincinnati in August.
Williams earned the first break in the seventh game and hit fired consecutive aces to finish off the first set in 37 minutes.
The 17-time major winner went up a break immediately in the second set before Azarenka won four straight games to take a 4-2 lead. Williams, who was comparatively silent against a screeching opponent for the second straight night, let out a scream of relief and satisfaction after hitting an overhead winner to break back in the seventh game.
Nadal wins Qatar Open
DOHA (AP) ― Rafael Nadal won his first title of the year by defeating Gael Monfils 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2 in an exciting, nearly two-hour final at the Qatar Open on Saturday.
Nadal dominated the first set, taking it in just 23 minutes.
Monfils settled into the match in the second set, initially taking a 3-0 lead. Although Nadal recouped the service break in the seventh game when Monfils netted a backhand, he couldn’t bypass the Frenchman in the tiebreaker.
In the third set, Nadal broke Monfils in the fourth game when the Frenchman shipped two forehands long from 30-30.
He capped off his win by breaking serve again on a second match point in the final game when Monfils sailed a forehand long.