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June 27, 2017

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Williams wins Brisbane title; Murray into final

BRISBANE, Australia--Serena Williams proved the break between seasons hasn't hurt her momentum in any way, capturing her 47th career title with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-1 victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Saturday in the Brisbane International final.

Williams has won 35 of her past 36 matches, including titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics, the U.S. Open, the season-ending championship and now the first event of 2013.

The 15-time Grand Slam champion already has won the Australian Open five times, and with the season's first major a little more than a week away, she's in good shape to add another one.

In a tournament featuring eight of the top 10 female players, not one women's match in Brisbane featured seeded players against each other due to a series of injuries and upset losses.

Williams missed a chance to extend her 11-1 winning record against top-ranked Victoria Azarenka when the 23-year-old Belarussian withdrew a half hour before their scheduled semifinal on Friday night due to an infected toe on her right foot. Azarenka was more concerned about being ready for the Australian Open.

The night off obviously didn't bother Williams, who dominated the final after breaking No. 36-ranked Pavlyuchenkova in the sixth game.

She went on a roll, conceding only three points in the last three games of the first set during a seven-game run until Pavlyuchenkova finally held serve in the fourth game of the second set.

The match was all over in 50 minutes, with Williams firing nine aces and hitting 24 winners compared with only one ace and nine winners for her rival.

"I always feel like I don't know how to play tennis when I play against you," Pavlyuchenkova told Williams at the trophy presentation. The pair had traveled together on a training trip to Mauritius in the offseason but didn't really hit against each other at the time.

Accustomed to victory as she is, Williams started as usual by thanking the sponsors, her God, organizers, the fans and started to thank her dad, Richard.

"This is getting so routine, I'm saying 'my dad' and he's not even here!" Williams said, slapping her forehead as she laughed, before finishing off her list of people to thank.

The 31-year-old Williams can regain the No. 1 ranking if she wins the Australian Open later this month. And if she does, she'll be the oldest woman to hold the top spot on the women's tour. Chris Evert set the mark in November 1985, aged 30 years, 11 months and three days.

In the men's draw, defending champion Andy Murray advanced to the final when fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori retired with an injured left knee while trailing 6-4, 2-0 in their semifinal earlier Saturday.

The Olympic and U.S. Open champion will next meet 21-year-old Grigor Dimitrov, who is starting to live up to his billing as a star-in-the-making by reaching his first ATP Tour final with a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) victory over Marcos Baghdatis.

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