Venus wins first title for 16 months
US tennis player Venus Williams celebrates after winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on February 22, 2014 in Dubai - by Marwan Naamani
Williams produced a magnificent performance by outplaying the tournament's sensation, Alise Cornet, 6-3, 6-0 to earn her a first title in 16 months.
Williams only gained entry into the Dubai Open with a wild card after falling outside the top 40, yet completed five fine wins.
In doing so she avenged the defeat which the French player had inflicted on her sister Serena Williams in the semi-finals, captured her first Premier level title since 2010, and ensured she would climb back into the world's top 30.
Williams' face was afterwards wreathed with enormous smiles, while Cornet twice dissolved into tears during the match, aware from an early stage that she was unlikely to find a way to halt one of the game's most formidable attacker two nights in a row.
"It's great to be back," she said, referring to her capture of the Dubai title four years ago.
"I was expecting to be playing Serena, but Alize played an amazing game in the semis, so congratulations on that.
"I have continued being able to practise, and I have been getting healthier," Williams went on, referring to the long term effects of the immune deficiency which has been threatening her career.
"It hasn't been easy. I have to thank the tournament for a wild card, and my family and Serena for encouraging me. They all kept me up when I was down."
- consistent excellence -
Despite her consistent excellence, the first blow was Cornet's.
Combining two great forehand drives, which dragged her opponent in different directions, she reached deuce on the Williams serve, and then immediately prospered from a double fault, perhaps induced by the return of serve pressure she created on the previous point.
Williams saved that break point, but conceded the next one with a moderate second serve, which Cornet thumped back hard and deep, forcing an error.
It gave Cornet a break, a lead of 2-1, and feeling that she was not out of place in this final.
But from that moment Williams, sensing the danger, raised her game, struck the ball better and, often roaring loudly, began to exert more dominance.
She broke back at once, with some help from Cornet who took a couple of risks too many in trying to maintain the initiative, and it propelled Williams to a run of four games which did much to alter the character of the contest.
Cornet bravely saved two set points in the eighth game, but Williams concluded it with a brilliant inside out backhand, which swung itself snugly into a small gap in Cornet's forehand corner.
Williams began the second set by breaking serve for the third time in four attempts, even though Cornet produced the shot of the match, a running forehand sidespin passing shot which Nadal might have liked.
It was a brief interlude in the plot which saw Williams increasingly able to find telling blows while Cornet was forced to stretch and strain to contain.
Another break took Williams to 3-0, which she converted to 4-0, despite having to recover from 15-40. During also profited from an uncharacteristically prodigal miss by her opponent, causing Cornet's eyes to fill with tears, and making her drop her racket.
It took several seconds for her to recover, but although she fought on bravely the momentum of Williams' onslaught did not cease, and she finished the match with yet another flurry of fierce drives.
Cornet's consolations were that she had achieved her first final on a hard court surface, and that she had managed four top 20 scalps, including a career best win to reach only her second Premier level final.
She is now very close to being back the top 20 for the first time in five years, a better player than she was then, and with every prospect of further progress.
With her sequence of five wins in this tournament Venus has remained ahead of sister Serena as the active player with the most WTA Tour wins (647 to Serena's 641). Her dream of continuing till the Rio Olympics may yet be alive.