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Serena Williams of the US celebrates a point against Maria Sharapova of Russia during their semi-final match at the Qatar Open in Doha, yesterday. Victoria Azarenka of Belarus reacts after winning a point during her match against Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland at the Qatar Open, yesterday. PICTURES BY: SYED OMAR/REUTERS
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: Crowd favourite Serena Williams of the US yesterday crushed Maria Sharapova of Russia to set up a dream title clash against the defending champion and world number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in today’s final of the Qatar Open.
Serena, who will be officially crowned as the new world number one tomorrow, beat Sharapova 6-3, 6-2 while Azarenka signed in for second successive final in Doha with a straight-set demolition of Agnieszka Radwanksa of Poland.
Azarenka, who beat Samantha Stosur of Australia in last year’s final, scripted an easy 6-3, 6-3 win over fourth seed Radwanksa who was looking for her third win in the new season.
Serena, who secured the world number one ranking with a win over Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals on Friday, posted her 11th win over Sharapova in 13 matches on the women’s Tour.
It was Serena’s 10th consecutive win over the 25-year-old Russian.
The 31-year-old American will be seeking her second trophy at the Khalifa Tennis Complex today. Serena won the season-ending championships at the same venue three years ago but she is playing her first Qatar Open event.
Azarenka said she was pleased with the way she handled the threat posed by in-form Radwanksa, title winner in Auckland and Sydney last month.
“I think it was a really high performance match from both of us. It was a little bit shaky in the beginning. I think I did a little bit too many unforced errors, rushed a little bit into the rallies, but I’m glad I could turn around quickly,” Azarenka said.
“I started to be patient, I was more aggressive and dominant,” she added.
“(I was) really going for my shots when there was an opportunity and taking advantage of every short ball she gave me,” Azarenka added.
Azarenka said reaching the final was a result of hard work and consistency on court.
“I worked really hard, you know, and I like to play here. I feel like I’m in pretty good shape. I have been pretty consistent lately throughout the whole year,” Azarenka said.
“I’m really happy to be here in the final. I always feel like I perform pretty good tennis here and I enjoy it a lot,” the defending champion said.
Serena said conditions were tough to handle in the semi-final win over Sharapova, who won the Qatar Open trophy in 2005 and 2008.
“The conditions were tough. Maria was always playing well (this week),” Serena said after her straight-set win laced with six aces.
Serena said the final will be a great match.
“I think it is going to be a great match,” the American added.
“I hope you guys (fans) come out and support me again,” the 15-time Grand Slam winner added.
“It will be a wonderful match for sure,” she pointed out.
The American said it was the best match she played all week.
She said: “Definitely the best I played. I had to play better. I was playing a player that’s very consistent, doesn’t lose often, just usually in finals and semis. So I had to be on my game today (yesterday).”
Yesterday, second seeded Serena hit the ground running by firing a 186km/hr ace in the first game of the first set.
Both players held their serve until the sixth game when she produced another break.
Leading 3-2, Serena fired a powerful forehand down the line to supplement two points gifted by the error-prone Russian who fumbled with a double fault and long return on her own serve.
A 178km/hr ace in game nine helped Serena grab the first set at 6-3.
At 2-1 down in the second set, Sharapova sprayed a return wide before committing a double fault on her own serve to allow Serena to grab a service break.
Not the one to let go the advantage, Serena managed another service break in game seven to go up 5-2.
In what proved to be the final game of the second set, Serena fired two aces to seal victory in 73 minutes.
Earlier in the day, Azarenka arrived for her semi-final with serious intent, breaking Radwanska in the very first game of the match.
Radwanska hit back with her own service break but at 2-all, Azarenka jumped ahead with her second break to go 3-2 up.
In the ninth game, Azarenka pursued with her relentless attacks, breaking Radwanska for the third time to take the set at 6-3. The Belarusian hit a stunning 16 winners against just 4 by the Polish star in the first set.
In the second set, Azarenka broke Radwanska in game two before sailing through to wrap up the match. THE PENINSULA