S.V. Sriram

Hong Kong: A tournament win is always special. More so if it comes at the start of a new season, against a top quality opponent and at a place where you have done well previously.

Fourth seed Venus Williams made sure that her trip here would be special when she bested second seed and the crowd favourite Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3 in the JB Group Classic tennis championship Gold Group final here on Saturday afternoon.

Grand double

Later, Venus completed a grand double by combining with Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark beat Russia’s Elena Dementieva & Portugal’s Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-4, 6-4 in the final match of the day.

This win also served to mitigate some of the disappointment that Wozniacki would have felt when she failed to defend her Silver Group title, losing to local girl Peng Shuai 6-2, 4-6, 10-6 (match tiebreak instead of third set).

For Venus it was her third title here in four championship round visits, while it was heartbreak time for Sharapova again, losing her second consecutive final at the Victoria Park. She had lost to Belgian Kim Clijsters last year.

Adding lustre to Venus’s win was a shiny gold racquet, presented by the title sponsor JB Group, to go along with the other trophies presented to the winner.

“I really think this is an ideal preparation for me before the Australian Open. I had an opportunity to play against a good player like Maria. I was really hitting the ball deep, doing everything well,” said Venus putting her win here in perspective.

As far as finals go it couldn’t have been better than two of the better known names in women’s tennis facing each other in what could be a preview of things to come in the new season. 2007 had seen the two split the two matches that they had faced each other in.

On Saturday too it was an even encounter till the 40th minute. Sharapova finally succumbed when she caught the net after a really long rally in the 10th game of the first set.

Erratic serving

The Russian’s tryst with her erratic serves continued. For her part Venus fired in six aces to Sharapova’s six and got her first serves in on a more regular basis.

Venus constantly stepped in a couple of paces inside when facing Sharapova and controlled the game for the most period. She moved Sharapova around, and had the better of the exchanges.

“It becomes very difficult when your opponent is serving big and consistently well. I did try to take my chances on her second serve. But I gave away too many easy balls,” said Sharapova of her loss.

The results (all finals): Gold Group: Venus Williams bt Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3.

Silver Group: Peng Shuai bt Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 4-6, 10-6.

Doubles: Williams & Wozniacki bt Elena Dementieva & Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-4, 6-4.

More In: SPORT | Today's Paper