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Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA (TICKER) -- Venus Williams continued her winning ways, cruising to a 7-5 6-2 victory over defending champion Justine Henin in the final of the $170,000 Australian Women's Hardcourt Championships.

Williams breezed to her 20th straight win in just 70 minutes. The top-seeded American tuned up for the Australian Open by continuing her fine form from 2001, when she won a pair of Grand Slam titles.

Williams earned the first prize of $27,000. She has won four straight titles, taking the crown in San Diego, New Haven and the U.S. Open before her triumph Saturday (Friday night in the United States).

"It's been a good week. At the start of the week my goal was to get some good practice in, some good matches, which I did. I happened to also come away with a title, which is really nice," Williams said after claiming her 22nd career title. "I feel my game is at a good level right now."

It marked the third time the second-seeded Henin has lost to Williams in a final. The Belgian also was beaten by Williams at Wimbledon and New Haven.

Henin, who beat Williams on clay at the German Open last year, fell to 8-1 all-time in this event.

"(Venus) was just too good today," Henin said. "She was playing very well from the baseline and she had me rushing on a number of points. But I'm pretty happy with my play today and this week. It's a good preparation for the Australian Open, just like I had last year."

Henin saved four set points to force a 5-5 tie before Williams held serve. Henin had a foot fault and netted a forehand and Williams closed out the set when Henin sent a backhand long.

Henin failed to cash in on three break opportunities in the third game of the second set before being broken twice, giving Williams a 5-1 lead. Williams was broken to make it 5-2, but Henin double-faulted on match point.

Williams reached the semifinals with a 7-6 (7-1), 6-5 victory over Nadia Petrova, who retired due to a strained right pectoral muscle. Henin swept past No. 7 Daja Bedanova of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-2.
 
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