Outgoing world number one Victoria Azarenka showed that being second best was not an option for her as she outclassed Serena Williams 7-6 2-6 6-3 to win the Qatar Open.
Williams will replace Azarenka on top of the WTA rankings when the new list is released on Monday but the American’s hopes of capping off a memorable week with a 48th singles title were dashed by an opponent who extended her 2013 record to 12-0.
Williams’s game sparkled as brightly as the diamond ring on her playing right hand during the second set but it was Australian Open champion Azarenka who was running rings around her in the third.
The Belarussian leapt to a 3-0 lead and never relinquished that advantage, polishing off Williams with an unreturnable serve in just under 2-1/2 hours.
In case anyone in the crowd had forgotten that she had entered the tournament as top dog in the world rankings, Azarenka celebrated winning her second successive Qatar title by holding both arms aloft and wagging her index fingers towards the night sky of Doha.
“It’s amazing to have achieved what I have achieved,” the Belarussian said in a courtside interview.
“I just wanted to fight and give myself every opportunity to get back. I told myself ‘you have to keep it together, you have to do something otherwise Serena’s on a roll and she’s going to bring her A-game’.
“I had to really step up my game and I’m glad that I could turn it around, stay tough and focussed.”
Williams had entered the match on a high after reclaiming the top ranking for the sixth time and beating rival Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals.
Two days after becoming the oldest woman to claim the world number one accolade, it seemed the efforts of the week finally caught up with her 31-year-old limbs.
The player who has a reputation of blowing away opponents was in danger of suffering the same fate herself in the third set.
She hung in to save one match point on her serve at 5-2 down, thanks to a serve that was incorrectly called in, but Azarenka was not about to let her off the hook.
The American saved another match point on Azarenka’s serve with a thumping backhand service return but it was the Belarussian who was soon thumping her chest and blowing kisses to the crowd.