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Serena clinches year-end No.1, Safina out of Doha

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:48

Serena Williams’ outspoken quest to claim the year-end world No.1 ranking has ended successfully but in disappointing circumstances, when Dinara Safina withdrew from the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha with a back injury.

The Russian’s ended her season crying into a towel just two games into her round robin match against Jelena Jankovic.

Safina’s withdrawal ensures Williams, who later beat sister Venus in the day’s final match, will overtake the Russian when next Monday’s season-ending standings are released.

“It’s such a great feeling to finish the year as the world No 1,” said Serena, although she did add that she was “sorry” to hear about Safina’s injury.

Having regained the No.1 ranking on the eve of the tournament, Safina had needed to win as many matches as the American to fend off her challenge.

But it soon became clear that she was in no fit state to complete her White Group match, let alone beat Jankovic.

Safina has been managing a lower back injury with cortisone injections for three months, and at 1-1, 15-40, she was in so much discomfort that she felt that she could no longer continue in the match or the tournament, and withdrew. Vera Zvonareva will replace her.

“My body just gave up,” said Safina afterwards, sparking questions about the likelihood of her playing at next year’s Australian Open – a doubt that hangs over Serena for altogether different reasons.

Safina’s decision meant that Serena could celebrate finishing the season on top for the first time since 2002 before even playing sister, and defending champion in Doha, Venus.

In what was her first competitive meeting since the Wimbledon final, Serena recovered from match point down and was even interrupted by a cat running across the court before winning 5-7 6-4 7-6(4) for her second victory in the Maroon Group. Venus is now out after two defeats.

The news that Serena will start next season as the world No.1 puts an even greater spotlight on the Grand Slam committee, currently investigating the incident at this year’s US Open where the American swore at a line-judge at the end of her semi-final defeat to champion Kim Clijsters.

Serena has also confirmed her availability for next month’s Fed Cup final against Italy, the United States Tennis Association announced on Wednesday.

Williams, unbeaten in the competition, last played in 2007 and was part of the US team that won the title in 1999.

“I am very excited that Serena wants to represent her country,” US Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez said. “You want to have your best players competing, and Serena is the best in the world.”

Alongside Serena, 18-year-old Melanie Oudin will get another chance to shine after her run to the US Open quarter-finals.

The team for the tie in Calabria starting on November 7 also features doubles specialist Liezel Huber and teenager Alexa Glatch.

Earlier in the day, Caroline Wozniacki survived a match point against a visibly riled Victoria Azarenka before posting a 1-6 6-4 7-5 victory in a match that lasted two minutes short of three hours.

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