<
>

Serena overcomes injury, first set for title

1/29/2005

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams beat top-ranked
Lindsay Davenport 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 in the Australian Open final
Saturday, making a stirring comeback after injuring her back in the
opening game.
Williams stretched her winning streak at Melbourne Park to 14
matches and captured her seventh Grand Slam singles title, ending
an 18-month drought without one.

She beat sister Venus to win the final here two years ago -- when
the Williams sisters were at the top of women's tennis -- but
couldn't defend the title last year because of a knee injury.
The seventh-seeded Williams, who fended off three match points
in her semifinal win over Maria Sharapova on Thursday, made a
dramatic comeback after needing a medical timeout in the first set
for what a trainer initially described as a rib injury.
"Lindsay had me on the run. My back went out -- I'm not as young
as I used to be," Williams said. "Eventually I was able to come
back."
Coming to grips with a series of injuries and the shooting death
of her sister, Yetunde Price, in September 2003, had been hard
enough, Williams said, without having to face persistent questions
about "what's wrong with the Williams sisters?"
"There's nothing wrong with us," she said Saturday. "We're
still players to beat."
Williams said regaining the Australian title was the start of a
resurgence: "This gives me confidence."
Davenport, who won the last of her three Grand Slam titles here
in 2000 and hadn't been in the final of a major since the 2000 U.S.
Open, won only eight points in the third set.
After Davenport's backhand landed long on match point, Williams
dropped to one knee and raised both arms in the air.
She held up her index finger, showing she's No. 1, before
walking over to her entourage in the crowd and slapping hands with
her mother, Oracene, and Australian hitting partner Mark Hlawaty.
Davenport, who lost in the women's double final Friday
afternoon, said Williams was too strong in the end.

"She's had a tough couple of years, but she's come back like
the champion she is," Davenport said.
Davenport raced to a 4-0 lead after 11 minutes in the first set,
breaking Williams' serve in the first and third games.
Williams' serve was well down on her usual speed in the first
set and Davenport was making the most of it, smacking some
aggressive winners on return.
Williams appeared to be favoring her right side each time she
hit the ball and, after holding serve for the first time in the
fifth game, called for the trainer.
The trainer gave Williams treatment on her back at the side of
the court before the treatment continued outside the arena during
an 8-minute break.

Williams had a break point in the sixth game but Davenport held
and then served out in the ninth, closing the first set with a
service winner. Williams' just got to the serve on her backhand
side, screaming "Ouch!" as she missed with a lunging shot.
After fending off six break points to hold the fifth game of the
second set, Williams' body language changed.
"I kept thinking 'I'm not losing this game -- I don't care if my
arm falls off,' " she said.

She twice appeared on the brink of smashing her racket, but held
her composure and hung onto the game.
She held her next service game at love, and then converted her
first break point of the set -- after Davenport had game point at
40-0 -- for a 5-3 lead.

That was the game Davenport regretted the most.
"I felt like I was playing well and in control pretty much of
the match," she said. "Then I just had that horrible lapse, I
think serving up 40-0, and made a few errors and opened up the door
for her and she just kept going through it.
"At the end I think I was a little bit fatigued. But she took
advantage of it and kept going -- she's a great front-runner when
she gets going."
Williams won nine consecutive points to end the second set.
She committed just three unforced errors in the deciding set and
her first-serve percentage jumped to 80 percent.
Steady morning rain forced the roof at Rod Laver Arena to be
closed for the 10th all-American women's final in the Australian
Open.