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Serena Williams, soon to be No. 1, beats Maria Sharapova

February 16, 2013|By Dan Loumena
  • Serena Williams reaches for a backhand return against Maria Sharapova on Saturday in a Qatar Open semifinal.
Serena Williams reaches for a backhand return against Maria Sharapova… (Osama Faisal / Associated…)

Serena Williams, who will take over No. 1 in the world tennis rankings Monday, defeated Maria Sharapova on Saturday to advance to the finals of the Qatar Open.

Williams, who will become the oldest woman to hold the top ranking, will now play the woman she's replacing atop those rankings, Victoria Azarenka, in the championship match Sunday.

Sharapova didn't put up much opposition on Saturday, with Williams defeating the Russian, 6-3, 6-2.

Azarenka, who has beaten Williams only once in 11 meetings, defeated Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-3, 6-3, in the other semifinal.

Williams, who has been hampered by a sore ankle she injured last month at the Australian Open, said her game is improving as the tournament progresses.

“Definitely the best I played," she said. "I had to play better. I'm playing a player [Sharapova] that's very consistent, doesn't lose often, just usually in finals and semis. So I had to be on my game today.”

Williams will replace Chris Evert, who was 30 when she was No. 1 in 1985, as the oldest top-ranked woman. She secured that feat by beating former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

“I definitely think it took pressure off,” Williams said of returning to No. 1, a spot she last occupied in October 2010. “But, you know, you still have to stay in it.”

Azarenka, the two-time reigning Australian Open champion and runner-up to Williams in the 2012 U.S. Open, said she is not letting the loss of the top ranking bother her.

“It's so out of my hands,” she said. “I have been playing really well, I have been really consistent, I haven't lost a match yet, so why should I be frustrated? For me, it's always important to just win matches, win big tournaments like here, as well. If I'm No. 2 after winning a tournament or whatever, that's what happens.”

Wire and Internet reports contributed to this story.

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