A fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia scored a surprisingly comfortable 6-3, 6-2 victory over the top seed Serena Williams in the Sydney International final today. Williams, who had 40 unforced errors in 17 games against the 2008 Olympics champion, appeared to sustain a knee injury during the match. Williams' loss comes just three days before the start of the Australian Open, where the American is the defending women's singles champion. Williams would not elaborate on the injury when asked during the presenation ceremony. Earlier, the former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis beat American Mardy Fish 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5) in the men's semifinal. Baghdatis' opponent in the final will be Richard Gasquet, who beat French compatriot Julien Benneteau in the other semifinal 6-3, 7-5. Dementieva reversed her straight-sets loss to Williams at the 2009 season-ending championships to claim back-to-back titles in Sydney. The 28-year-old is the first woman to defend her crown in Sydney since Martina Hingis in 2001-2002. Dementieva will need to be on her best form early on at the Australian Open if she hopes to match or improve on her semi-final run last year after being dealt a possible second-round encounter with former number one Justine Henin.
Roger Federer faces a challenging path if he is to extend his record grand slam haul to 16 at the Australian Open, beginning his campaign next week with a first round test against Russian Igor Andreev. In their last meeting, the 36th-ranked Andreev took Federer to five sets at the 2008 US Open and should the Swiss continue his march to the fourth round, local hope Lleyton Hewitt or 15th-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon could block his path to the quarter-finals. Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, who the world No 1 defeated for the 2006 title, also looms as a possible fourth-round opponent, ahead of a potential quarter-final against in-form Russian world No 6 Nikolay Davydenko. Rafa Nadal has a much smoother route to the last eight as he sets out to defend the title he claimed in a five-set thriller against Federer a year ago. The Spanish world No 2 was paired with Australian Peter Luczak when the draw was made today but may face a third-round hurdle against big-serving American John Isner, who knocked Andy Roddick out of the US Open last year.
In the women's draw, four-times champion Serena Williams opens against Poland's Urszula Radwanska but her injury in the Sydney final loss to Elena Dementieva could be a cause of concern. Former world No 1 Justine Henin reached the Brisbane International final earlier this month in her first tournament back from retirement and should have too many weapons for compatriot and first-round opponent Kirsten Flipkens. Should she continue through the tournament, Henin could set up a mouthwatering quarter-final against either French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova or fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters, who won the US Open on her own comeback last year. * Agencies