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Williams ranking moves up significantly

1/25/2007 - Tennis

SEED KILLER

Serena Williams has climbed 77 places in the rankings in just two tournaments this year, and guaranteed herself a spot in the top 20 by reaching the final of the Australian Open. She'll go to No. 14 if she wins Saturday.

Williams plummeted to 140th, her worst ranking in almost a decade, in 2006 during an injury-plagued season in which she played just four tournaments, before climbing back to end the year at 95th.

Three weeks ago, Williams lost in the quarterfinals of the Hobart International before starting play unseeded and ranked 81st at the Australian Open, where she has beaten four seeded players to reach the final against top-seeded Maria Sharapova. Williams' win Thursday against Nicole Vaidisova gives her enough points to come in at 18th when the WTA Tour rankings are updated on Monday, and four higher if she beats Sharapova, who already has enough points to take the No. 1 spot from Justine Henin.

Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam winner who spent six years in the top 10 before her injury problems started in 2005, let out a celebratory whoop Thursday when asked about cracking the top 20 again.

"I can't believe it," she said. "That's awesome. That was so fast."

-- Associated Press

NO GLARING DISTRACTIONS

Nicole Vaidisova reported no
problems during her loss in the Australian Open semifinals after a
fan of Serena Williams was reportedly caught reflecting the glare
off his watch into her eyes during the match.

A local TV broadcaster pointed out a man, sitting in Williams'
players box, moving his watch around at various times and
reflecting the sun onto the court.

Vaidisova, who lost 7-6 (5), 6-4 Thursday, said she didn't
notice anything that would have distracted her from the match.

The issue was raised by respected television commentator John
Barrett, who said flashes of glare were coming off the watch face
of a man sitting in front of Williams' mother, Oracene.

"It is an extraordinary coincidence that whenever Vaidisova is
serving, that youngster seems to be getting [the sunlight] into the
eyes of Vaidisova," Barrett said.

Vaidisova was asked after her loss if she was affected by sun
glare at any stage during the match.

"No, didn't notice anything," she said. "It was sunny, of
course. But, no, not really crazy that I noticed."

Williams deadpanned laughter when asked to respond to the
allegation, then frowned.

"That's the most outrageous thing I've ever heard," said
Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam winner who is making a comeback
from an injury-plagued 2006. "As if anyone would do that on
purpose."

Tennis Australia spokesman John Lindsay said officials had not
asked for a copy of the television footage for review, and that
there were no plans to investigate the incident.

-- Associated Press