boiling point

DOHA - SERENA WILLIAMS, having stripped naked for an American magazine shoot, can lay bare her simmering frustration over losing her world No1 ranking at the WTA championships that start tomorrow.

DOHA - SERENA WILLIAMS, having stripped naked for an American magazine shoot, can lay bare her simmering frustration over losing her world No1 ranking at the WTA championships that start tomorrow.

Despite winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles this year, taking her Grand Slam collection to 11, Williams, 28, has again been displaced at the top of the women's game by Russia's Dinara Safina who has yet to capture a major.

Williams's fourth career stopover at the top of the rankings lasted just two weeks.

Coming in the slipstream of her notorious, foul-mouthed US Open meltdown, the American will be on a very personal mission at this $4.55million (R51.03million) season-ending tournament.

The eight-woman field of Safina, Serena and Venus Williams, French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva, Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Jankovic, also boasts intriguing sub-plots.

Wozniacki, the world No6 from Denmark, finds herself embroiled in a WTA probe following her controversial injury withdrawal in Luxembourg last week.

Players are also desperate to lay down markers ahead of the 2010 season before Kim Clijsters, the shock US Open champion, and fellow former No1 Justine Henin start chipping away at newly-minted reputations after coming out of retirement.

Serena Williams has never hesitated to mock Safina's No1 one status this year.

"I'd rather definitely be No2 and win Grand Slams in the past year than be No1 and not have any," Serena said.

Williams comes into Doha also desperately trying to move on from her now infamous US Open semi-final defeat to Clijsters where she launched a furious, verbal assault on a line judge.

Safina, runner-up at the Australian and French Opens, has defended her position in the rankings, claiming it's a reward for playing more tournaments and performing consistently well at them.

Venus Williams, who routed Safina for the loss of just one game in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, is the defending champion here and will be playing in her ninth WTA Championships.

Jankovic, who was world No1 one at the start of the year, was the eighth and final qualifier, squeezing through in Moscow last week.

The eight players are split into two groups of four with the top two in each making the semi-finals. The champion takes home 1.55 million (R17.38million). - Sapa-AFP

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