Serena rolls to 10th Grand Slam title

Updated: January 31, 2009, 2:19 PM ET
Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams always selects a special outfit to bring to Australia for a victory celebration. Every second year, she gets to wear it.

Williams' 6-0, 6-3 rout of Dinara Safina on Saturday earned her a 10th Grand Slam title, a fourth Australian title -- coming each odd-numbered year since 2003 -- and the No. 1-ranking.

"I actually forgot until the end when I was saying hi to my box. They're like, 'Hey, you're No. 1.' I was like, 'Oh, yeah,' " she said.

[+] EnlargeSerena Williams
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesSerena Williams started strong in the Aussie Open final and didn't let up, beating Dinara Safina in 59 minutes.

Not that a number means everything.

"I always believe I'm the best, whether I'm No. 1 or 100," she said. "Just having that extra bonus is pretty cool."

Williams set aside a stylish black top to wear for the big occasion this time. In between the match, doping tests and media commitments, she changed into it.

"I always bring an outfit for the championships," she said. "I always try to think positive, and I think it helps me be able to win."

Williams was so dominant that Safina, a 22-year-old Russian playing in her second major final, didn't feel worthy of being on the same court.

"It was first time for me to play not only for the Grand Slam, but also for No. 1 spot," said Safina, the 2008 French Open runner-up. "I never been through this situation, and she was already.

"Serena was too good ... I was just a ballboy on the court today," added Safina, apologizing to the Rod Laver Arena crowd after the 59-minute match.

After Melbourne's hottest three-day heat wave on record, conditions were a relatively mild 79 degrees for the tournament's first women's final at night.

Safina had been hoping to emulate two feats her brother, Marat Safin, achieved. He won the 2005 Australian Open -- the day after Serena won her second title here -- and held the No. 1 ranking.

"She played exactly the way she had to play and she was much more aggressive and she just was taking time out of me," Safina said.

"She didn't give me a chance."

[+] EnlargeDinara Safina
Mark Kolbe/Getty ImagesDinara Safina met with two roadblocks at the Australian Open final -- her own miscues and a strong performance from Serena Williams.

Williams' win at the U.S. Open in September gave her the No. 1 ranking for the following four weeks, her first stint at the top since a 57-week stretch from July 2002.

She started this year at No. 2 and slowly worked her way through the tournament. She was struggling with her serve at times and had to fend off Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals when the Russian was serving for the match.

"I was playing lazy tennis in the beginning and I was doubting myself," she said. "I'll thank my mom for hanging in there this week. The first week was tough, but we got through it."

She lifted herself in the semis to snap Olympic champion Elena Dementieva's 15-match winning streak and was overpowering from the first game of the final, losing only eight points and winning 18 of the last 20 in the 22-minute first set.

Williams finished with 23 winners and just seven unforced errors, winning more than twice as many points as Safina.

In '07, when Williams was ranked No. 81, she beat six seeded players en route to the final, where she beat top-ranked Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2.

In her two earlier runs to the Australian title, she'd had to save at least two match points in the semifinals. This was more straightforward.

"It was definitely one of my most dominant performances, especially considering it was a final," Williams said. "I was able to just lift the level of my game."

The first set was only the third 6-0 scoreline in the Australian Open final in 47 years. On the court after the match, Williams commended Safina for never giving up and being a good advertisement for women's tennis.

In a news conference later, she was asked if fans should be surprised or worried about a 6-0 set in a final.

"Uhm, hmm. I don't know ... You should never be surprised by anything that I do."

Williams win here gave her back-to-back majors for the first time since winning the Australian title in 2003 to complete her "Serena Slam" of four consecutive majors. The only other woman since then to win back-to-back majors was now-retired Justine Henin, who won the 2003 U.S. Open and 2004 Australian title.

Williams still remains far away from the women's record for Grand Slam singles titles. Margaret Court Smith had 24 and Steffi Graf 22.

But by making the singles and doubles finals, she already had become the all-time leading money winner in women's sports. And her $1.3 million for the singles title lifted her career earnings above $23.5 million.

She planned to spend a little of it in a double celebration with men's doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan. She and sister Venus won the women's doubles final Friday -- their eighth Grand Slam doubles title.

The Bryan brothers won their seventh Saturday, beating Mahesh Bhupathi of India and Mark Knowles of the Bahamas 2-6, 7-5, 6-0 to regain the No. 1 ranking.

"All I know is Serena usually picks up the bill," Mike Bryan said of the impending co-celebrations.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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