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Venus Follows In Henin's Footsteps By Defending Dubai Title

Dubai, UAE

Venus Williams© Barclays Dubai Tennis ChampionshipsVenus Williams, 29, won her 42nd career tour-level title.

Williams makes it two in a row with straight sets victory over Azarenka

Venus Williams became just the second woman in the history of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships to retain the title when she defeated fourth seed Victoria Azarenka 6-3 7-5.

The finale to a spectacular week of tennis was a thriller that kept the crowd on the edge of their seat as the defending champion struggled to close out the first set and then keep control of the second.

There was just one break in the first set, and drama before it was decided. Williams had earned the first two break points of the match at 3-2, and Azarenka then hit a fault. A second serve was called in, but Williams challenged the call with Hawkeye, which showed the serve had landed long to give Williams the break.

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The next two games were both held at love, but Williams hit two double-faults and then faced a break point as she served for the set. But she rose to the challenge and hit a winning forehand as Azarenka tried to pressure her at the net, and she went on to hold.

Williams then threatened to run away with the match after an Azarenka backhand error gave her a break for 1-0, she held easily for 2-0 and then came within two points of a 3-0 lead. But Azarenka continued to battle, and her resilience was rewarded when Williams sent a forehand long to give her a break for 3-3.

Games then went with serve until 5-5, when Azarenka played a poor service game and Williams was able to break her with a forehand pass.

"It was definitely very competitive," said Williams. "I expected her to come out and play very well. Of course, I respect her game. Just the effort that she gives into it. Even though I was leading in the second set, she just never gave up. So she played really well. Obviously happy to close the tournament out."

As well as Azarenka played, Williams was able to do everything a little better.

"Obviously, my serve is a big advantage for me," she said. "I think I get a lot of balls back. That helps! I think off the ground she's very strong and consistent, but I think I'm probably a little stronger than her, so that helps me to control the point. I think she does everything well, but there's a few things, obviously the strength that helps me."

Azarenka disagreed with her opponent that power had been a factor.

"I don't think so. She was just, you know, making ... it's not about power. It's more about precision that she was making it on the lines close to the lines. There was more about that. Venus came off with some big shots, and, you know, I think overall the game was really good. Very high quality of tennis from both of us. Just, you know, a little bit of bad luck on a few balls. But I'm proud of what I did today."

And Williams was delighted to be back in Dubai, a place that the multiple Grand Slam winner thinks offers a lot in the world of sport:

“I know that in this part of the world they love having sport events. I know that Dubai wants to be the sporting capital of the world,” Williams said.

“With the spirit (it has), obviously more events can come here. So it really brings a better future to this area of the world, especially in sports,” she added.

"So it's great to be on that road because they put on such a great event that it's wonderful to be able to see this grow. I definitely think her playing here has an influence on things outside of tennis. It's definitely a step in the right direction. I think we need, obviously, government to do what they did here, the right thing. And obviously courageous people like Shahar to have the courage to come and play and play so well with focus. So I think, on both ends, it's going in the right direction."

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, features the WTA final between Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka on February 20th, and continues with the ATP tournament from February 22nd.

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