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Serena mum, but some can see a run at history

February 01, 2009|Diane Pucin

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Serena Williams is not going there. She is not going to predict a grand accomplishment for this season. She's not going to proclaim she has a chance to sweep all four majors this year.

But Williams has just won her 10th Grand Slam final with her 6-0, 6-3 beating of third-seeded Dinara Safina, a 22-year-old Russian, on Saturday night at the Australian Open.

She has reclaimed the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour No. 1 ranking, has now won two major tournaments in a row (including last year's U.S. Open) and doesn't every 27-year-old who has accomplished almost everything she wants in her chosen profession need a new challenge?

"I'm not going there," Williams said Saturday night. "Hopefully I'll be able to win a couple more than one this year and that would be great."

Unlike her men's counterpart, Roger Federer, who was aiming for a record-tying 14th men's major title today when he played in the final against top-seeded Rafael Nadal, Williams probably can't acquire any historical honors.

Only six women in tennis history have won more Grand Slam singles titles than Williams. But most of those women have unsurpassable numbers, starting with Margaret Smith Court, who has 24, and Steffi Graf, who has 22.

"Oh, no," Williams said if she thought it was feasible to threaten those numbers, "not at all."

Still, former major tournament winners such as Tracy Austin and Martina Navratilova suggest that for Williams it would not be an unrealistic goal to become the first woman since Graf in 1988 to win a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Williams has what was called the "Serena Slam" when she won four consecutive majors at the 2002 French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open and started off 2003 with her first Australian Open title.

"The key is," Austin said, "if she's hungry enough and wants to prepare properly, especially for the French Open. No doubt she has the talent, she has the weapons. All you have to do is look at her record. She's won at least one of each Slam."

"She does have it in her," said Navratilova, who is here working for the Tennis Channel. "She is the best player out there and, all things being equal, she could win. But everything has to fall into place. But, yes, at her best she is the best player out there."

Patrick McEnroe, who is calling matches for ESPN, says there are two things that might stop Williams from taking the calendar year Slam.

"Clay and Venus," he said. "In the past I would have said there was a third reason -- Serena and her interest. Thankfully, I think that is no longer a factor. Serena reminds me more and more of Andre Agassi and his second career. She is more focused, just as competitive when it really matters and, most importantly, playing much more within herself.

"Look at the final stats -- 23 winners, seven errors. Her tennis IQ has improved dramatically."

Williams was most pleased with having only seven unforced errors against Safina.

"That was crazy," she said. "I don't think I've ever played with so few unforced errors.

"Just doing what my dad [Richard Williams] tells me to do, technical things. I tried to do all those today."

About 90 minutes after her win, Williams sat in a white leather chair wearing dark blue jeans, a lacy black top and her trademark heart necklace. This title brought her great joy, she said, especially the way she patiently found her game after a sluggish first week.

"My mom [Oracene Price] said I was playing lazy tennis," she said, "and I couldn't figure out how that happened because I worked so hard in the off-season."

When asked what special work she had done, Williams giggled and said, "Practice. I just practiced."

That's a simple solution it would seem, but not one Williams has always been willing to consider in the past.

And if she keeps practicing, who knows, said McEnroe.

"She can certainly win the French since the best clay court player of her time [Justine Henin] is enjoying retirement somewhere in Belgium," McEnroe said. "Serena's still most vulnerable on clay and Venus has the slight edge over her on grass but as of right now Serena is the only woman capable of winning them all and now she has the first."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Australian Open

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING . . .

Serena Williams (2) of the United States beat Dinara Safina (3) of Russia, 6-0, 6-3, to win the women's singles championship.

Bob and Mike Bryan of the United States beat Mahesh Bhupathi of India and Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, 2-6, 7-5, 6-0, to win their seventh Grand Slam doubles titles.

For complete coverage see www.latimes.com/sports

TODAY'S MATCHES

Men's singles final between No. 1-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain and No. 2-seeded Roger Federer of Switzerland, which started at 12:30 a.m. PST today.

-- Diane Pucin

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