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Serena Williams cements status as Australian Open favorite

updated 3:29 PM EST, Sat January 4, 2014
Serena Williams took a tumble Saturday but still beat Victoria Azarenka to capture the Brisbane title.
Serena Williams took a tumble Saturday but still beat Victoria Azarenka to capture the Brisbane title.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Serena Williams wins the Brisbane title by defeating Victoria Azarenka
  • Williams extends her winning streak to 22 matches and ends Azarenka's run in Australia
  • Roger Federer reaches the men's final by beating Frenchman Jeremy Chardy
  • In a battle of former No. 1s, Ana Ivanovic gets the better of Venus Williams in Auckland

(CNN) -- Given the way Serena Williams played in 2013 -- amassing a 78-4 record and picking up two more majors -- she was always going to be the favorite at the Australian Open.

She is now even more of a favorite after defeating the reigning two-time Australian Open champion, Victoria Azarenka, to capture the title in Brisbane on Saturday.

In downing the world No. 2 6-4 7-5, Williams extended her winning streak to 22 matches and ended Azarenka's 24-match run in Australia.

Williams also came through against a tough opponent in the semifinals, seeing off Maria Sharapova in straight sets.

"I feel like I'm being pushed into the deep end straightaway," the 17-time grand slam champion and world No. 1 was quoted as saying by the WTA's website. "I think it's a good thing.

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"In Melbourne if I have to face Maria again, I'll know a little bit more what to expect, and same thing with Victoria. If I happen to play against her in Melbourne, I'll know what to do and what to expect."

Williams was never in danger in the opener but had to rally from a 4-2 deficit in the second set against the player who severely tested the American in September's U.S. Open final.

Williams -- hampered by ankle injuries in Melbourne the previous two years -- improved to 14-3 against Azarenka.

"I want to play better," Azarenka told reporters. "I'm a perfectionist.

"I can't say I'm satisfied today, but I want to take the positive, what I've done today, and build from here towards the next week."

The Williams sisters were denied a double as hours before Serena's victory, Venus Williams fell to Ana Ivanovic 6-2 5-7 6-4 in Auckland in a battle of former No. 1s.

Ivanovic had lost eight of her previous nine encounters against the elder Williams.

"I've worked really hard for this and many times I've been in a position to win another title, so to come through in a final like this against such a good player is obviously a great feeling," Ivanovic, who bagged a title for the first time since the end of 2011, told the WTA's site.

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Nadal triumphs in Qatar

In Doha, men's No. 1 Rafael Nadal beat Gael Monfils 6-1 6-7 6-2 to bag his 61st title. In the Open Era, that puts him in sole possession of eighth, surpassing Andre Agassi.

"It is the first time in my career that I am able to start the season with a victory," Nadal told the ATP's website. "That's always important."

Roger Federer advanced to the men's final in Brisbane, hitting 20 aces to overcome Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3 6-7 6-3.

A 17-time major champion like Serena Williams, Federer faces Lleyton Hewitt in the finale after the Aussie veteran upset Kei Nishikori 5-7 6-4 6-3.

Federer -- trying to rebound from a disappointing 2013 -- leads their head-to-heads 18-8.

"It's been a good week so far, and I hope I can play a good final," Federer told the ATP's website. "We know each other very well, so both of us will find our groove and know what to expect from one another."

Read: Can Federer find his old form?

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