The world No. 3-ranked player, but the No. 1 in the minds of her fellow players (except Victoria Azarenka) and the public, Serena Williams started off her 2013 campaign and a potential run back to the No. 1 ranking by winning the WTA Brisbane crown on Saturday night in Australia.
The younger Williams sister was dominant in topping Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the final 6-2, 6-1. In the semifinals Williams received a walkover against the world No. 1 Azarenka, who easily won her quarterfinal match, but pulled from the semifinal match against Williams before taking the court, citing a toe problem from a pedicure. Azarenka was 0-5 against Williams in their head-to-head meetings in 2012.
In the off-season Williams had practiced with Pavlyuchenkova.
“We were both in Mauritius working so hard, and I think we’re both meant to do well in a couple of weeks,” Williams said.
Williams has now won 16 matches in a row stretching back to 2012, and will next take to the court at the Australian Open.
“I’m in a really calm place and not panicking, I’m not over-thinking it and not just blasting every ball,” Williams said of her current on-court state. “I get really calm and kind of serene. I was looking at a lot of old matches on YouTube and I feel like right now I’m playing some of my best tennis.”
Pavlyuchenkova dropped to 3-2 in career finals.
Agnieszka Radwanska was also a winner during week one, defeating Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 6-4 for her 11th career title and first on the Australian continent in Auckland at the ASB Classic.
Radwanska was tested in the semifinals by unseeded American Jamie Hampton, surviving in two tiebreaks. Wickmayer in her semifinal beat Mona Barthel in a third-set breaker. Wickmayer fell to 3-6 in career WTA finals.
China’s Li Na started her season out right with the title in her home country at the Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open, outlasting Klara Zakopalova 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 in the final.
Zakopalova won more points during the match, 89 to 88 for Li, but the Chinese won the bigger points to earn her seventh career title and first since Cincinnati last year.
“I managed my mood swings well, and I’m glad I made it,” said the temperamental Li. “Winning the title certainly helps boost my confidence for the coming weeks, but it also depends on how I’m playing on the courts. Confidence itself won’t guarantee a win. But I’m very happy to win.”
Zakopalova dropped to 2-10 in career finals, but is now on the verge of cracking the Top 25 for the first time.
“She’s playing unbelievably fast and flat, and she’s hitting her backhand down the line very well,” Zakopalova said of Li. “To me she’s one of the Top 3 players right now and I hope she can make it there.”
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