Serena Williams Wins Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams routed Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-3 Saturday to win the Australian Open for her 10th Grand Slam title and a return to the No. 1 ranking.

It was total domination for the second-seeded Williams, who looked at ease in winning back-to-back majors – she won the U.S. Open championship in September – and was moving fluidly on the court.

“I absolutely, clearly, love playing here,” the 27-year-old Williams said. “You guys root for me so much. I don’t get that everywhere. So thank you so much.”

Williams’ near-perfect performance was in sharp contrast to No. 3 Safina, who was tight from the start. Later apologizing to the crowd for her performance, Safina said Williams was just too good, leaving her feeling like a ballboy.

In the first game, Safina double-faulted three times, including on break point. Williams ran off 18 of the last 20 points in the first set to finish it in 22 minutes.

Other than matches that ended early due to illness or injury, it was the most lopsided Australian Open women’s final since 1962, when Margaret Smith beat Jan Lehane 6-0, 6-2.

It was Williams’ second overwhelming victory in a final at Melbourne Park, where she kept alive her record of winning in odd-numbered years since 2003 for four titles. Coming into the 2007 tournament unseeded after being plagued by injuries the year before, she beat top-seeded Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2.

Sharapova rebounded to win last year but was unable to defend her title while recuperating from a shoulder injury.

Williams became the fifth woman to win four or more Australian titles. By making the singles and doubles finals, she already had become the all-time leading money winner in women’s sports.

For winning the Australian singles title, she earned $1.3 million and has career earnings of more than $23.5 million.

After Melbourne’s hottest three-day heat wave on record, conditions were nearly perfect for the tournament’s first women’s final at night, but Rod Laver Arena was less than capacity, with large patches of empty seats scattered around the upper deck of the 15,000-seat stadium.

On Sunday, top-ranked Rafael Nadal will face No. 2 Roger Federer in the men’s final. Federer will be trying to tie Pete Sampras’ record of 14 major titles, while Nadal is seeking his third Grand Slam out of the last four, missing only the U.S. Open last September that was won by the Swiss star.

Safina had been hoping to add to her family’s Grand Slam total – brother Marat Safin won two, including the 2005 Australian Open. She also will have to wait for a chance to match his one-time No. 1 ranking.

But Safina looked nothing like the player who won four titles and the Beijing Olympics silver medal last year. Increasingly dispirited, the crowd tried to encourage her, and she managed to break Williams in the first game of the second set.

It just delayed the inevitable.

Williams took the next four games, and things got so bad that Safina swung and completely missed a forehand while serving at 2-5. She managed to win the game, but Williams held at love when Safina sent a backhand wide on match point.

Williams went over to slap hands with her mother and other people sitting in her box as Safina, looking shellshocked, sat in her chair waiting for the trophy presentation. She grimaced when Williams thanked her “for putting on a great show for women’s tennis.”

After struggling with her form earlier in the tournament, Williams finished with 23 winners and just seven unforced errors in the final, winning more than twice as many points as Safina.

“I’ll thank my mom for hanging in there this week,” she said. “The first week was tough, but we got through it.”

It was Williams’ 20th overall Grand Slam title. She won her eighth women’s doubles crown with sister Venus on Friday and has two mixed-doubles championships.

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