Serena Williams returns a shot against Petra Kvitova during their quarterfinal… (Karim Jaafar / AFP / Getty…)
Serena Williams will return to the top of the women's world tennis rankings after the Qatar Open, where she defeated former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, in Friday quarterfinals.
When the new rankings are released Monday, the 31-year-old Williams will become the oldest top-ranked women's tennis player in history when she surpasses Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. Williams last held the top ranking in October 2010.
Previously, Chris Evert was the oldest to hold the No. 1 ranking when she was 30 in 1985.
“I never thought I would be here again,” said Williams, the 2010 U.S. Open champion who struggled in 2011 after cutting her foot at a restaurant and later dealing with blood clots in her lungs. “Oh my gosh, I've been through so much. I never thought I would be here.”
The victory was a struggle for Williams, who has been hampered by a sore right ankle that she injured at the Australian Open last month.
Williams won 13 of the last 14 points to take the second set but fell behind, 4-1, in the final set. She broke Azarenka's serve twice to take a 6-5 lead and closed the match with one of her 14 aces.
Williams first attained the No. 1 ranking on July 8, 2002, and held it until Aug. 10, 2003. She didn't reclaim the top spot until Sept. 8, 2008, but that lasted only a month.
Over the next two years, she climbed back to No. 1 three times before finally relinquishing it on Oct. 10, 2010. She bounced back into the top 10 in the rankings with a stellar 2012, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open titles as well as Olympic gold at the London Games.
“There were often times that I never thought I'd play again. Then I thought I'd never be able to win tournaments or Grand Slams,” Williams said. “No. 1 was so far off. I mean, it was always a dream, but, you know, I was No. 1 when tragedy struck, and it was just an awful thing to happen. So I'm happy that I'm back.”
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