Venus Williams defeated unseeded Italian Flavia Pennetta 7-6 6-2 in the Zurich Open final to all but guarantee the American a place at the season-ending WTA Championships in Doha.
|Williams' win makes it hard to deny her a trip to Qatar [AFP]
Third seed Williams, who had lost her last three meetings with Pennetta, took full control of their latest encounter after rampaging through the first set tie break 7-1.
The victory lifts Williams into eighth in the latest standings published on Monday, comfortably clear of rivals Vera Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska in the race for the last two qualifying spots for the tournament in Qatar.
Polish Radwanska, in the worst position of the trio in 10th, will now have to win both the remaining tournaments in Linz and Quebec, where she is not currently entered, to deny Williams a place at the finale.
"I haven't managed to play at the Championships since 2002 so obviously I'm excited to be healthy enough to play there this year," Williams said.
"To have this good week going into the Championships, working on more consistency in my game and not having so many errors, should also help me in Doha, assuming now that I'll be there."
Chasing only her second title of the year, following her latest Wimbledon victory in July, Williams was made to work hard during Sunday's opening stages with neither player offering up a single break point during the first set.
Venus in ascendency
The subsequent tie break proved surprisingly one-sided, however, with Williams storming into a 6-0 lead after forcing two early errors from her opponent with a couple of powerful groundstrokes directly to Pennetta's feet.
Dropping her serve for the first time in the third game of the second set, Pennetta then had to watch as Williams fired in four straight aces to lead 3-1.
Following a further break of the Italian's serve, Williams was denied her first chance to wrap up the match when a Pennetta backhand on match point which looked long was controversially ruled in.
Williams kept her cool, hitting a fierce winner to the corner of the court before producing a final service winner.
"I obviously had a great service game today and it was the first time ever that I won a game like that (by hitting four straight aces)," said Williams.
Pennetta had been looking to become the third woman to win four consecutive matches against Williams, a feat so far managed only by Lindsay Davenport and Williams's younger sister Serena.
|Doha calling: The WTA Championships will be held at Khalifa [GALLO/GETTY]
"I knew from playing Venus before that she is always going to make a lot of aces and good serves but normally she also gives you some chance to make breaks," said the Italian.
Pennetta climbs one place above her previous best world ranking of 15th in Monday's standings.
She is also now on course for an invite to Doha as one of the alternates kept on standby in case of injury to any of the top eight.
Jelena Jankovic remains world number one ahead of Dinara Safina and Serena Williams, who is three points ahead of Ana Ivanovic.