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Venus powers to victory

Venus Williams beat the world No 1, Martina Hingis 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Swisscom Challenge in Zurich, Switzerland yesterday, quashing the Swiss player's dreams of a first career title at home.

Venus Williams beat the world No 1, Martina Hingis 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Swisscom Challenge in Zurich, Switzerland yesterday, quashing the Swiss player's dreams of a first career title at home.

Playing at a tournament without family members present for the first time did not appear to affect Williams, who smoothly sailed through the tournament without dropping a set to collect her ninth career title.

"My parents had confidence in me and I'm glad I didn't disappoint them," said Williams, whose family remained at home in Florida, caught up in the swirl of studies, work and Hurricane Irene. "I was a little nervous being without them at the start of the tournament.

"Naturally, as everybody gets older you have to start doing things on your own," the second seed said. "That's what I did here so I really deserved this title."

Playing in front of the Zurich crowd for the first time in two years, Hingis delighted the 6,000 fans crammed into the Kloten sports hall by starting the match with a love service game, then breaking the powerful American's opening serve to take a 2-0 lead.

But the Swiss player had difficulty withstanding Williams' power, struggling to maintain her own serve and failing to convert her two other break points in the set. Instead, to the sellout crowd's dismay, it was Williams who broke to jump ahead 4-3, and again at 5-3 to clinch the set.

Squandering two break points in the opening game of the second set, Hingis was unable to get the upper hand, barely clinging to her own serve. Fans looked on worriedly as Williams broke again to jump ahead 4-2, then breathed an audible sigh of relief as Hingis generated three break points to immediately regain her serve. The two players kept the spectators on the edge of their seats, trading breaks again to go 5-4.

It was then Hingis made her fatal error. Offered an easy point when Williams' ball tipped the net, Hingis sent a forehand shot wide, giving the American player the break, set, match and title.

"I played my game and I have a lot of power," said Williams, who lost last year's final to compatriot Lindsay Davenport. "I've played her enough to know what to expect from her.

"Martina doesn't give you much when you play so you have to become selfish and not give her anything either."Hingis, who reached the final in Zurich only once before, in 1996 when she lost to Jana Novotna and was sidelined with a strained ankle last year, took her defeat in stride.

"I had my chances, especially in the second set," said Hingis, who won her seventh title this season in Filderstadt last week. "But I was simply unable to close out the points.

"I can't say I'm really disappointed because she was playing better than me," said Hingis, who has 26 career titles, including five Grand Slams. "But with some more physical training I can beat her again."

Facing off five times this season, the two 19-year-olds have been locked in a fierce rivalry. The victory marked Williams' second consecutive win over the Swiss player, having defeated Hingis in the semi-finals of the Grand Slam Cup just two weeks ago.

Hingis' last win over the tall, lanky American dates back to the US Open in September, when she beat her in the semi-finals before losing the prestigious title to Williams' younger sister Serena.

Hingis still has an 8-5 win-loss record against the American, though Williams leads this season's head-to-heads 3-2, having also defeated the Swiss player in the semi-finals of the Italian Open in May. Hingis' only other victory over Williams this year was in the final of San Diego this summer, when she regained her place atop the world rankings from Davenport.

It has been 16 years since a Swiss player has won the Zurich title, when Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere was crowned singles champion in 1983.