serena rules

MELBOURNE - Serena Williams stole the show on Saturday, sweeping her fourth Australian Open title and snatching the world number one ranking with a lopsided thrashing of Dinara Safina.

MELBOURNE - Serena Williams stole the show on Saturday, sweeping her fourth Australian Open title and snatching the world number one ranking with a lopsided thrashing of Dinara Safina.

The larger-than-life American needed just 59 glittering minutes to floor her Russian opponent 6-0 6-3 scoop 2 million Australian dollars and join an elite club of players to have won at least 10 grand slam singles titles.

"That's just uber-cool," she grinned. "When I think of these greats I don't necessarily think of my name, I think of them.

"The 'Serena Slam' would be awesome to do again," she said of the term she coined for winning four straight grand slam tournaments in 2002-2003.

"With the way Dinara is playing and all these other girls, it will be tough but I'm in it for the challenge." The Australian Open is now Williams' most successful slam.

She also has three US Opens, two Wimbledons and a French Open crown. Her haul places her seventh in the list of women's grand slam title leaders, but some way behind Australian Margaret Court with 24.

"I am so excited I feel like I want to talk forever," she giggled to the crowd before posing with the trophy for photographers and holding her finger up to denote number one.

Had world number three Safina triumphed in the final she would have instead claimed the world number one spot, but that detail seemed scarcely credible on the evidence of Saturday's thrashing.

"I didn't spend one hour on the court... I was just a ball boy on the court today," said Safina, younger sister of 2005 men's champion Marat Safin.

"She played exactly the way she had to play and she was much more aggressive and she just was taking time out of me. She didn't even let me to come into the match."

Williams looked like she meant business from the second she stepped on court, dressed in a blue outfit to match the court surface and with a stylish yellow head-scarf holding back her hair. Warming up she hit the ball firmly and crisply as Safina, in a day-glo yellow vest top stretched to reach the shots.

Once out of the traps Williams was off, racing through the opening set in only 22 minutes. Safina managed to win only eight points in the opening set and the Rod Laver Arena crowd shuffled in their seats as Safina clipped a forehand into the net to drop the set.

At the beginning of the second set as Safina knew she had to stop the rot or go home. She came out swinging and when she pummelled a backhand crosscourt winner to break Williams in the first game a roar went up around the crowd looking for a contest.

Safina desperately fought to consolidate that break but was powerless to prevent Williams from hitting right back with a clenched fist and a nod to herself.

Williams, also doubles champion with elder sister Venus, rolled through the next three games to stretch into a 4-1 lead as Safina threw plaintive looks to her coach in the crowd.

It was not long before she delivered the knockout blow.

"Sometimes things just click," Williams said. - Reuter

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