Champions Crowned in Doha

The Sony Ericsson Championships – Doha 2008 have come to a successful conclusion, with Venus Williams winning her first season-ending title, and Cara Black and Liezel Huber defending their doubles crown.

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They were the last two to qualify and after a tough week they were the last two standing. Venus Williams and Vera Zvonareva, the No.7 and No.8 seeds at the Sony Ericsson Championships – Doha 2008, went unbeaten in their respective round robin groups and won tight semifinals to set up the unlikely – at least on paper – title match. And while Zvonareva’s form was strong it wasn’t enough to flip a decidedly lopsided head-to-head trend, as she began strongly but eventually fell for the sixth straight time to Williams, 67(5) 60 62.

Both Williams and Zvonareva were surprise packages in round robin play, going 3-0 in their respective groups. Williams opened with a straight set win over No.2 seed Dinara Safina before notching three set wins over No.5 seed Elena Dementieva and No.3 seed Serena Williams; Zvonareva beat No.6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets before taking out No.4 seed Ana Ivanovic and No.1 seed Jelena Jankovic in three-setters. Both were tested in the semifinals but again emerged victorious, with Zvonareva outlasting Dementieva, 76(7) 36 63, and Williams beating Jankovic, 62 26 63.

The tournament’s last two qualifiers waged an intense battle in the first set of the final. Zvonareva drew first blood, breaking serve and building a 5-2 lead, even holding four set points at 5-3. Williams would fight back to take the set to a tie-break, and storm to a 5-1 lead once there; but her feisty Russian foe, who went into the final with the equal-most match wins on the season (65, with Jankovic), would not give any ground, reeling off six points in a row to take a one set lead.

Williams wouldn’t have any of that, however. She barrelled through the second set at love and got through the third set almost as easily, as her huge serve and penetrating groundstrokes were just too much for a shell-shocked Zvonareva.

“I played some bad shots and it went from bad to worse; before I knew it, the set was over,” Williams said. “She just kept running everything down and hitting incredible shots. I realized the match wasn’t over, though. I was just starting to get my rhythm, and after that I started playing better. I got a lot more consistent and was also controlling the points more. The tables started turning a little bit.

“I had to go out there and win the match, because she wasn’t giving it away.”

“It was a very tough set; I was able to play my game in the first set a lot better,” Zvonareva said. “In the second and third sets she started dictating. I didn’t use the shots that helped me win the first set, and that gave her opportunities to start dictating. And she started coming up with some great serves when she needed them. I tried my best today. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

The Championships-Championships double – capturing The Championships, Wimbledon and the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in the same season – has only happened three times in the last 10 years, in 1999 (Lindsay Davenport), 2004 (Maria Sharapova) and now 2008 (Williams). Williams had 36 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles titles coming into this season, but with the two aforementioned titles and an indoor title in Zürich last month, she now has 39.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to end the season this way; I haven’t had the opportunity to play this tournament very often, so it’s really awesome to have the opportunity to play here and play well, too,” Williams said. “I haven’t thought too much about next year yet, but I have high and wonderful hopes for it, and at the appropriate time I’ll start working hard again and try to take this momentum forward.”

Zvonareva never had as much success against the Top 10 as she did in Doha this week. Before 2008 she had seven Top 10 wins, but never two in the same week; she had three more Top 10 wins during the regular season in 2008, with two of those coming in the same tournament (beating Jankovic and Dementieva at Charleston). This week she beat four Top 10 players before falling to Williams, including her second career win over a reigning world No.1, over Jankovic (she also beat then-world No.1 Sharapova at Indian Wells in March 2007).

“It’s the first time I’ve played Top 10 players five matches in a row, and I was able to come up with four wins, so of course it has been a good week for me,” Zvonareva said. “I could have done a lot better today, but it was still lots of fun, even though I lost the match. I think there are many, many things for me to work on, and I’m going to try and improve those things in my game for next year.”

It was a much different result from her only previous Championships attempt in 2004, when she crashed out in the round robin stage with a 0-3 record.

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Black, Huber defend season-ending crown, win 10th title of season

Cara Black and Liezel Huber qualified for the Sony Ericsson Championships – Doha 2008 doubles event months before any of the other teams, and in the heat of battle they seemed to be even further ahead of their competition, cruising through both of their matches at the season-ending event to take home the title. Seeded No.1, they first crushed Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual in the semifinals, 61 63, then in the final they beat Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs in a slightly closer straight-setter, 61 75.

“Even though the score seemed easy in the first set, it was just one or two points’ difference, and it could have been much tighter,” Huber said. “They definitely played stronger in the second set. Every time we go out there we expect the best from the other team, and they really did play a great match today.”

It was Black and Huber’s 10th title of the season and second-biggest, after they won their fourth Grand Slam title together at the US Open. In 2007 they won nine titles together, including this very tournament, which was held in Madrid.

“It’s even more special because it’s not in Madrid again, it’s in Doha; so here we are, winning the same event but in different conditions,” Huber added. “I love Doha. We feel very comfortable here. We’ve had such a great week, a lovely time, and I’d like to come back here for a vacation. They made us feel very special here this week. We’re going back home with very sore hearts today.”

Articles and Photo from WTA

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