Williams confident gamble will pay off
World No.3 Venus Williams is confident her plan to ease into the first grand slam of the year will pay off next week after clinching the Australian women's hardcourt championship in straight sets.
The Wimbledon and US Open champion cruised to her 20th straight WTA Tour win and 22nd singles title in 1hr13mins with a crushing 7-5 6-2 victory over defending champion Belgian world No.7 Justine Henin.
Henin, who stretched Williams to three sets before conceding the Wimbledon final last year, had hit top gear at the tournament but battled a sudden bout of flu as she faced the might of the big-serving American.
Williams, who arrives in Sydney on Monday for a week of rest while younger sister Serena plays the adidas International, is now setting her sights on an elusive Australian Open crown.
"It would be nice, real nice," the 21-year-old said before celebrating her Gold Coast title with a soft drink with mum Oracene and her entourage of five.
"I have had some disappointing and tough losses I have had to swallow and I'm tired of swallowing."
Williams turned her back on the Sydney tournament in favour of a more relaxed preparation on the tourist strip, where she is already planning a return tilt next year.
"It just seems so fast-paced in Sydney with so many top players in the tournament you don't really feel like you get the chance to settle in your game and here I really felt like I had the opportunity to take my time," Williams said.
"It is just a different feeling being here. I felt I got all the practice and matches in and also got the title."
Henin, whose record against Williams has now extended to 1-4, posed an early threat after breaking Williams in the opening game of the match.
The tenacious teen saved four set points at 5-4 but Williams eventually took the set in 40 minutes.
Williams broke Henin in the fourth and sixth games of the second set but the determination of the second seed, who has risen from world No.50 since last year's Gold Coast title win, broke back in the seventh game.
Henin then handed victory to Williams with a double fault.
She beat Williams at the German Open last year but has lost the past three encounters at Wimbledon, New Haven in the US and on the Gold Coast.
After bulking up under a weights regime designed by coach Carlos Rodriguez in December, Henin has added more sting to her serve.
But not enough to counter Williams, who holds the tour record after firing a 201kmph bullet at Wimbledon last year.
"It's a lot better," Henin said.
"There is a bit of difference between us. But if I focus on the difference I will stop tennis because I have to play a lot against these kinds of players.
"I have many things in my game. I'm quick, I move well and I can be strong when I want."
Henin also heads to Sydney but not empty-handed after clinching the Gold Coast doubles title with US world No.12 Meghann Shaughnessy.
The pair outclassed Sweden's Asa Carlsson and Dutchwoman Miriam Oremans 6-1 7-6 (8-6).
Last edited by GrandSlammed; Jan 5th, 2002 at 08:31 PM.