Williams beats Halard-Decugis in Toyota Princess final

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The Independent Online

With a big serve and some big groundshots, second seed Serena Williams pounded out a 7-5, 6-1 victory over fourth-seeded Julie Halard-Decugis in the Toyota Princess final in Tokyo today.

With a big serve and some big groundshots, second seed Serena Williams pounded out a 7-5, 6-1 victory over fourth-seeded Julie Halard-Decugis in the Toyota Princess final in Tokyo today.

In the doubles, top-seeded and the world's top-ranked pair of Halard-Decugis and Japan's Ai Sugiyama won the title with a 6-0, 6-2 win over second-seeded Nana Miyagi of Japan and Paola Suarez of Argentina.

Sugiyama previously won the doubles with Monica Seles in 1997.

Halard-Decugis and Sugiyama have moved into the No. 1 spot on the doubles point standings for the Chase Championships in New York Madison Square Garden Nov. 13-20 after their victory in the 2000 U.S. Open doubles event.

Williams, who came to Japan after winning the Sydney Olympic doubles gold medal with her sister Venus, scored 10 aces, against Halard-Decugis' none, and often used powerful shots to force the Frenchwoman to go out of position, especially in the second set.

The 19-year-old from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, needed only 65 minutes for the victory in her first tournament in Japan.

She opened the match holding her serve at love, and repeated the same performance in the third game that featured two consecutive aces.

Williams, ranked eighth in the world, was in control, but the 30-year-old, 19th-ranked Halard-Decugis played superbly even in defeat.

The match went with serve until a decisive turning point came in the first set's 12th game.

Leading 6-5, Williams broke the game on a couple of errors on Halard-Decugis' part and her own winners, including a backhand crosscourt and a ripping forehand to within inches of the baseline. Again, it was a love game.

In the second set, Halard-Decugis lost speed and momentum, never threatening again.

After tying at 1-1, Williams won five straight games, serving out the match in the seventh with an ace and two powerful serves that her opponent slapped wide or long.

"Her serve was good in the beginning, and then it became stronger and stronger," said Halard-Decugis. "In the second set it was unbelievable, and I had less and less chances."

Williams said: "Yes, today my serve was better for sure. I had a few more aces and I was getting the contact point a little better. Overall it was better because whenever you're playing in any final, no matter what tournament, I always step up my game a notch."

The victory, Williams' third this season, was worth $87,000. The runner-up won $43,500.

A near-capacity crowd of 10,000 laughed and cheered wildly when Williams spoke in Japanese in her court-side victory statement. She said, in good Japanese, "I'm glad that I came to Japan. I'll come back for sure. Thank you very much."

She said she learned the Japanese words from Ruth Shiraishi, an official translator for the event.

Williams has said she almost skipped the Toyota Princess because of her tight schedule and the tournament's proximity to the U.S. Open and the Olympics.

She told reporters that from now on she will invest her prize money in the stock market, her new hobby.

Asked if she plans to go shopping to celebrate the victory, she said her days of splurging are gone. "Last year, I went through a 12-step program to stop. I had a couple of relapses in Australia, but I'm now investing in stocks and IPOs (initial public offering)."

Williams said she may compete in the "Generali Ladies Linz" In Austria Oct. 16-22. "My next tournament? I might go to Linz," she said.

Williams and Halard-Decugis were the highest survivors in a week in which top seed Monica Seles and third-seeded Amelie Mauresmo were eliminated.

More than 15 singles players will stay and compete in the Japan Open Oct. 9-15. They include Halard-Decugis, Amy Frazier, Kristina Brandi, Jelena Dokic, Tamarine Tanasugarn and Daja Bedanova.

Sugiyama, Japan's top player ranked No. 32, will sit out the singles event.

After the doubles match, Suarez said: "It was tough to play against them (Sugiyama and Halard-Decugis). We did not feel so good today, and I did not return so well. They played so good that they put a lot of pressure on us."

The winners received a total of $27,000, while the Suarez-Miyagi pair won $13,800.