Venus Williams rallied to win the WTA's Sony Ericsson Championships in Qatar for the first time, defeating Vera Zvonareva 6-7 (5), 6-0, 6-2 at the season-ending event.
|President of the Qatar Tennis Federation, Billie Jean King, Williams and the first lady of Qatar[GALLO/GETTY]
The Wimbledon champion found her rhythm and took command in the last two sets with powerful serving, smashes and aggressive groundstrokes against her Russian opponent.
Williams won $1.34 million at the event, which for the first time offered the same prize money as the men at the ATP's season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai.
"I'm so excited," Williams said.
"That was a hard-fought match, every point, right down to the end."
The first lady of Qatar, a conservative Muslim sheikdom, presented the trophy to Williams, shaking her hand and kissing her on both cheeks.
Sheika Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned wore a traditional black head scarf and robe.
"Thanks to your Royal Highness for coming. Wow!" Williams said.
Such a public appearance by a ruler's wife is unusual in the region.
Billie Jean King sat with Mozah and other dignitaries during the match and joined Williams on the court for the awards ceremony.
The trophy is named after King.
Williams' ranking will improve to No. 6 from No. 8, while the ninth-ranked Zvonareva also will move up two spots.
The two were the lowest-ranked players at the event, which featured the top eight players in the world.
"I know I can go higher" in the rankings, said the 28-year-old Williams, a former No. 1 who defeated top-ranked Jelena Jankovic in the semi-finals.
Zvonareva became increasingly frustrated and collapsed to the ground in tears when Williams broke her in the final set to go up 3-1.
Williams, who lost in their first meeting at the 2003 French Open, now holds a 6-1 record against Zvonareva.
"She stayed aggressive," said Zvonareva, who qualified for the championships in 2004 but did not win a match.
"In the second and third, she was dictating."
|Venus Williams powers her way to victory [GALLO/GETTY]
Zvonareva surged to 5-2 in the first set, and led 5-3, 40-0.
But she was unable to convert four set points in that game, and Williams won it on her second break point.
In the tiebreaker, Zvonareva fell behind 1-5, but rallied to win it on her fifth set point when her backhand slice clipped the net cord and dropped over.
"I just played some bad shots and went from bad to worse," Williams said.
"I was a little disappointed, to say the least. But I realised the match wasn't over."
Williams qualified for the championships for the eighth time since 1998.
She had reached the semi-finals twice and withdrew five times because of injuries and illnesses.
"It was missing, this one," Williams said of the WTA Championships title.
She has won 39 Tour singles titles, including five Wimbledons and two US Opens.
Williams' career earnings rose to $21,921,346.