Serena is Australian Open champion

Associated Press

Melbourne, January 29:

Serena Williams had lost the first four games and was in pain, wincing on almost every swing. Her shots lacked their usual zing. Her hopes for a seventh Grand Slam appeared to be doomed. Then, with a little help from the trainer, the woman who calls herself the toughest fighter in tennis started getting her power back. It was soon lights out for top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, as Williams rallied for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory in the Australian Open final on Saturday that stretched her winning streak here to 14 matches.

In Sunday’s men’s final — the first-ever here at night — third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt will face No 4 Marat Safin, who is in his third final in four years at Melbourne Park. Seeded only seventh, Williams was still the bookies’ favourite against Davenport, who had struggled at times and was tired after reaching the women’s doubles final, too.

The match was little over a minute old and Davenport had Williams running from side to side. “I reached for a backhand and I think it tweaked my back out, one of my ribs out,” said Williams, who will jump to No 2 when the new rankings come out. Although Williams started to loosen up, Davenport went on to win the first set. The turning point came as Williams served at 2-2 in the second. Appearing twice to be on the verge of smashing her racket, she fended off six break points to hold. A tiebreaker loomed as Davenport served at 3-4, 40-0. Two double-faults and a couple of other errors later, and it was 5-3. Davenport never had another chance, losing the last nine games and winning only eight points in the third set.

Williams ended her 18-month Grand Slam drought — then started talking about landing her eighth major and regaining the No 1 spot that now is so close again. The French Open is next, and she pointed out that a victory there would provide a little symmetry — two titles in each of the four majors. She held up her index finger, showing she’s No 1, before walking over to her entourage in the crowd and slapping hands with her mother, Oracene, and Australian hitting partner Mark Hlawaty.

Steady morning rain forced the roof at Rod Laver Arena to be closed for the 10th all-American women’s final in the Australian Open.

In the men’s doubles championship, Zimbabwe’s Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett, seeded fifth, beat second-seeded US twins Bob and Mike Bryan 6-4, 6-4.

Ullyett will have a chance to add another Grand Slam title on Sunday, while Martina Navratilova won’t be adding to her career total.

Navratilova, 48, and Max Mirnyi of Belarus lost their semi-final mixed doubles match on Saturday to Ullyett and Liezel Huber of South Africa 6-2, 3-6, 7-6.

Navratilova has 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 doubles and nine in mixed doubles. Australians Samantha Stosur and Scott Draper are the other finalists in Sunday’s mixed doubles championship.