Caroline Wozniacki ended the year as the world No 1 but it was Kim Clijsters who left Doha with the title at the WTA Championships yesterday. The 27-year-old Belgian, who also won $1.45m (£900,000) in prize money, beat Wozniacki 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in a final of rapidly changing fortunes.
Clijsters, who last won the season-ending finale seven years ago, dominated the first set and the start of the second, but from 1-4 down Wozniacki showed great resilience to fight her way back into the match. When the 20-year-old Dane broke serve in the opening game of the deciding set to lead for the first time, it seemed that the pendulum had swung her way decisively, but Clijsters hit back immediately and made what proved to be a decisive second break to lead 4-2.
When serving at 5-3 Clijsters had another wobble, but Wozniacki was unable to convert any of the three break points she created. Clijsters double-faulted on her first match point, but a smash set up her second, which she converted with a service winner.
"At the moment, I'm just relieved it's over," the world No 3 said when interviewed on court after the match. "It seemed like it wasn't going to end. I thought we showed the crowd some really good women's tennis tonight.
"It was a really tough battle with some great shots, great tennis and great fitness. I'm glad that I won. Obviously it's disappointing for Caroline, but I don't know how many more years I'm going to keep doing this. She has a great future ahead of her."
Clijsters, who was playing her first tournament for two months following an operation to remove a mole from her right foot, has won this title on two previous occasions.
Her victory rounded off another fine year following her comeback two summers ago. Her season highlights included her second successive victory at the US Open as well as yesterday's triumph.
Wozniacki, who appeared to be exhausted at the end, has been the most consistent player on the women's tour this year. She has yet to win a Grand Slam title, but can relish her achievement in finishing the season as world No 1, having held off Vera Zvonareva's challenge to her position in the final week. "It's been a fantastic week for me," Wozniacki said. "Kim just played amazingly today and she deserved to win."
Andy Murray faces a tricky first-round match against Spain's Feliciano Lopez as he begins his defence of the Valencia Open title this week. Murray is seeded to meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals, Fernando Verdasco or Nikolay Davydenko in the semi-finals and Robin Soderling in the final.
Ross Hutchins, Murray's occasional doubles partner, won the second ATP title of his career in Montpellier yesterday. Hutchins and the Australian Stephen Huss beat Eduardo Schwank and Marc Lopez 6-2, 4-6, 10-7. Hutchins, who will team up with Scotland's Colin Fleming next year, won his only other doubles title with Huss in Beijing two years ago.