More Sports / Tennis

Serena reigns supreme at Toyota Princess Cup tennis

by Alastair Himmer

Second-seed Serena Williams demolished France’s Julie Halard-Decugis in two sets on Sunday to win the $535,000 Toyota Princess Cup and add the icing to the cake after her gold medal in the Sydney Olympic doubles.

Williams recorded a 7-5, 6-1 victory at Tokyo’s Ariake Colosseum, giving the 19-year-old American her third title of the season and a check of $87,000 to invest in the stock market — her new hobby now that she has, apparently, cured her shopping bug.

The world No. 8 backed up her promise to serve better after Saturday’s semifinal win against Czech qualifier Daja Bedanova and banged in 10 aces against the fourth-seeded Halard-Decugis, who failed to secure a single break point during the 65-minute match.

When the Frenchwoman did manage to return serve, Williams kept the pressure on with heavy ground strokes hit to within inches of the lines, forcing Halard-Decugis to scramble around the court to stay in the point.

The match went with serve until the 12th game of the first set, when Williams crunched a forehand cross-court pass to gain break point, and Halard-Decugis then fluffed a simple drop shot with an open court at her mercy to hand over the set and the momentum.

From 1-1 in the second set, Williams stepped up a gear and rattled off five straight games to close out the match as unforced errors littered the game of her 30-year-old opponent, who has yet to win a set from the younger of the Williams sisters in four attempts.

“I practiced my serve yesterday and got a few more aces in today. I always try to step my game up a notch for the final,” said Williams, who partnered big sister Venus to gold at last month’s Sydney Games.

Asked if she will go shopping to celebrate victory in her first appearance in a Japanese tournament, Williams — who boosted her record to 23-5 on hard courts this season — joked that her days of splurging are over.

“Last year, I went through a 12-step program to stop (shopping). I had a couple of relapses in Australia, but I’m investing in stocks and bonds now,” she said, admitting though that she has been window shopping in Tokyo over the past week.

Halard-Decugis, who pocketed $43,500 for her efforts in reaching the final, said afterwards that she felt satisfied with her week’s work in the singles.

“Yesterday I beat (Monica) Seles for the first time, so my tennis is coming back. Serena’s serve was unbelievable today and it was very tough for me,” said Halard-Decugis.