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Defending Champion Williams To Face Azarenka In Final

Venus to face No.4 seed in bid for second Dubai title

Defending champion Venus Williams is on track to win her second Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships title after ending the run of Shahar Peer in the semi-finals on Friday.

Third-seeded Williams came through 6-1 6-4, and she will now meet fourth seed Victoria Azarenka, who defeated seventh seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3 6-4.

Williams dominated the opening set as her aggressive play gave Peer little opportunity to establish herself in the match. Peer was pushed onto the back foot and committed error after error as Williams broke to lead 2-0 and then took a 4-0 lead when Peer double-faulted.

Peer, who had beaten three seeded opponents on her way to the semi-finals, eventually got on the scoreboard when Williams double-faulted on break point in the fifth game. But Williams responded by breaking again to love, and then closed out the set with a fine winner down the line.

The second set though increasingly became a real battle as Peer raised her aggression levels and challenged Williams in the fiercely contested rallies.

Although Williams broke for 1-0 on a fourth Peer double-fault, Peer was able to level at 2-2 to set up a fine finale. From then on most of the games were closely contested, with Peer fighting off five break points in a nine-deuce game to hold for 3-2 before Williams broke for 4-3 when a big serve return forced an error.

Williams in turn then held off five break points before holding for 5-3, before going on to close out the match on her third match point.

"I definitely started well, and I felt like I was playing very aggressively and just, you know, basically, taking a lot of time away from her," said Williams. "And then she also made some loose shots, but also, you know, most likely because of my play.

"But I think maybe I started to play a little bit too careful or maybe made too many errors. And sometimes when your opponent isn’t playing as well as they can when they pick up the level of their game sometimes, you just kind of have to balance it because those same errors aren’t coming. So I definitely had to kind of take a step back and figure out what I was doing, and try to keep up the same as I was doing in the first."

Peer admitted that Williams had been too good for her at the start.

"She started very strong.. She was all over me," said Peer. "I was a little bit slower, and I didn’t start very well. I felt like I had no time in the points. And you know, I didn’t serve very good the whole match, particularly the first set and the beginning of the second. And she put so much pressure on me, so I felt I couldn’t really go into the match.

"Like I said, I felt like there was no time in the first set. And second set I started also 2-Love down, and then I came back. But I tried to get going as much as I can to be more aggressive and try to dominate, that she will not take the charge of it."

Despite her defeat, Peer was thrilled at having achieved one of the best weeks of her career.

"You know, you can play and win matches but it doesn’t mean that you were playing well. And I think I played very, very well this tournament and everything came together," she said. "So I think I will take it to the rest of the year and for my confidence, because I think my tennis is going in the right way."

The second semi-final was a fine contest between two of the most talented young players in the game.

Azarenka was the more enterprising player in the opening set, coming to the net well and hitting the ball very deep to keep Radwanska slightly on the defensive. Three early breaks of serve left Azarenka leading 3-2, and she closed out the set by winning the last two games at love.

Radwanska was more aggressive in the second set and she was rewarded with a break for 2-1. But Azarenka kept pressing, and she leveled at 4-4 with a stop volley. Then, after holding for 5-4, she broke serve again for the match when Radwanska netted a forehand.

Play at the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, which is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, begins on Sunday, February 14th, 2010 with the WTA Tour event and continues with the ATP tournament from Monday, February 22nd – 27th.

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