DUBAI – Venus Williams became the most successful active woman player on the WTA Tour when she secured her 42nd title by successfully defending the Dubai Open here on Saturday.
Williams, who beat Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 7-5 in an absorbing final, thus overtook Justine Henin's record of 41 titles, only two months after achieving another notable statistic -- a career total of $25 million in prize money.
She and her sister Serena are the only two women to have achieved this feat, but both Venus's resilient performance and her optimistic words suggested that further remarkable statistics are in the pipeline.
Asked if she now hoped to add to her tally of Grand Slam titles, the five-time Wimbledon champion replied: "Absolutely. I am so happy to have added to my collection here. And I am keen to keep adding every time."
Venus also made reference to the diplomatic success of a tournament which accommodated the first Israeli woman, Shahar Peer, ever to compete in the United Arab Emirates.
"It was a great tournament to have everyone included," she said.
Later she added: "Obviously we had issues with everyone getting included," referring to the refusal of Peer's UAE visa in 2009. "But this year it was great to show a spirit of inclusion and equality."
Venus went on: "I definitely think her playing has an influence on things outside the tennis. We need government to do the right thing like they did here and people of courage to come here and play, to play so well with focus."
Venus felt her good form was in significant measure due to having found a way of managing her long-lasting fitness problems, especially with a knee, and she delighted, she said, in being able to throw away the bandages she had to wear for much of last year.
The match was full of noisily powerful rallies -- Azarenka usually trying to work an initiative, Venus more likely to win the rally with one blow, Azarenka accompanying everything with a loud coo, Venus with an ominous roar.
The first set hinged on the pressure Venus placed on her opponent's second serves, which brought an Azarenka double fault on game point at 2-3 -- though it required Venus to make a successful appeal to Hawkeye to prove that the second serve was too long.
Having closed out the first set, Venus's momentum accelerated. She struck the ball with even more confidence, broke again immediately, and the feeling of the contest changed dramatically as she hurtled to 3-1.
However, as against Anastasia Pavluchenkova and Shahar Peer, Venus's serve wobbled a little with the end in sight. A creaky double fault at 3-2 gave Azarenka a break back point, and a moderate second serve allowed the fourth seed to make a return which converted that chance immediately.
But Venus broke again for 6-5, courtesy of an ill-timed foray to the net by the 20-year-old Azarenka, and closed out the match in the next game at the third attempt.
"I'm definitely starting to feel better," Venus concluded.
"It's been a learning curve in managing the playing and keep the swelling (of the knee) down. I don't usually talk about my injuries this much, but I am excited about what is happening."