Williams enjoys power struggle

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The Independent Online

Venus Williams powered her way to another straight-sets defeat of Lindsay Davenport to claim the Palo Alto title from the defending champion on Sunday.

Venus Williams powered her way to another straight-sets defeat of Lindsay Davenport to claim the Palo Alto title from the defending champion on Sunday.

In her first tournament since taking the Wimbledon crown from Davenport, Williams had an impressive 6-1, 6-4 victory on the Californian hard courts to stamp herself as the early favourite for the US Open in a month's time.

"It's nice to have a Wimbledon win and follow it up winning here," Williams said. "Lindsay did that last year at my expense. I've won 11 matches in a row now."

This marked the third successive year the pair have met in this final and the balance of power appears to be shifting Williams' way. "That's the best she has ever played against me," Davenport said.

Williams' parents have long touted her as a future worldNo 1 and now the 20-year-old stands on the brink of fulfilling her promise. "It feels good to be talked about that way," she said. "It's nice to have these wins under my belt. I need to stay calm if I'm going to dominate. Here I was unreasonably calm. Usually I get too excited."

Reversing what was once a one-sided rivalry in Davenport's favour, Williams attacked the big Californian from the start, out-hitting the woman who was once considered the ATP Tour's hardest and most consistent hitter. While Davenport leads their head-to-head contests 9-5, Williams has now won four of their last five.

Concentrating on her two newest weapons - a low forehand drive and a powerful, sliced second serve - Williams never allowed Davenport to dictate the points and refused to become engaged in extended rallies. "I didn't play that badly," Davenport said. "If she keeps up that level, she could get to No 1. But she has to play that way consistently."

Williams ended the first set by taking 12 of the final 13 points. "I was pretty hard on her," said Williams, who was playing only her fifth event of 2000 after sitting out the first half of the year with tendinitis in her wrists. "I didn't let her back in the match. This is definitely one of the most confident times of my career."

Davenport battled gamely in the second set, going for more winners off Williams' second serve and employing her inside-out forehand more effectively. She broke Williams to go ahead 3-1 with a blazing backhand down the line, but failed to consolidate the break when Williams, displaying a devastating return of serve, immediately broke back. "I was just going for my returns and I was there every time and making good contact," Williams said. "I went for broke."

Serving at 4-4, 15-30, Davenport was unfortunate when a line judge corrected himself on what appeared to be a service winner. She then missed two easy chances and handed Williams the break, going 5-4 down. The second seed then closed out the match with a 118mph service winner and a 122mph ace.

* Michael Chang took his first ATP Tour title in 21 months - the 34th in his career - when an ankle injury forced Jan-Michael Gambill to retire at one set all in the final of the Mercedes Benz Cup in Los Angeles on Sunday