Serena Williams, the future No. 1 player in the world come Monday, was defeated in the Qatar Open finals on Sunday by defending champion Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3.
Azarenka ended her 10-match losing streak against Williams to earn her 16th title. She had not defeated Williams since 2009, and had a 1-11 record against her going into Sunday’s final. But Azarenka has been on a roll lately, winning her last 14 matches, which included her second Australian Open title.
“It feels incredible,” Azarenka told The Associated Press. “You know, this tournament is really great. … It had such a strong field going into it, and I’m really glad that in the end of the week I’m the one who’s holding the trophy.”
Williams stumbled from the beginning of the match. She was unable to impose her fierce serve throughout the first set. Williams had a dismal 26 unforced errors. Despite her horrific start, Williams managed to stay in the first set of the game with a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker. Ultimately, Azarenka won the first set after Williams hit a poor forehand into the net.
Williams managed to bounce back in the second set, capitalizing on her potent serve and forehand. Azarenka only managed to hit 39 percent of her first serves.
In the final set, Williams had control of the first game. Azarenka fell behind quickly 0-30, but administered a comeback to take a 3-0 lead. Williams made one last effort to stay in the match by saving a match point at 5-2, but Azarenka clinched the victory when Williams hit a forehand wide.
“I just wanted to fight and give it my best, give myself every opportunity I can,” Azarenka said.
Williams saluted Azarenka’s performance, but it was apparent that she was not at her best. She was still recovering from a right ankle injury that bothered her at the Australian Open and appeared to be managing a cold. Williams needed three sets to beat Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals.
“This whole week, I just don’t think I played my best tennis, and I was fighting every match,” Williams told The Associated Press. “I can’t play that quality game against a top player like Victoria. I have to be able to pick up my game, and I wasn’t able to do that today. I stayed at a two out of a 10, and I can’t play that low.”
However, Williams smiled when asked about her return to No. 1 ranking in the world.
“It was such a long journey, and after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and the (WTA) Championships, I thought, I just don’t think I can win anymore,” she said. “I don’t know what it takes to be No. 1. So it was awesome to come here and achieve that goal.”
Williams could easily lose the ranking next week in Dubai to Azarenka if she does not make it to the finals and Azarenka does.
Another rematch would put the top two players in the world against each other once again.