Dubai - Venus Williams, the seven times former Grand Slam champion, won the WTA Dubai Open on Saturday to silence some of the doubters who said she could never make a significant comeback at the age of 33.
Williams produced a magnificent performance by outplaying the tournament's sensation, Alize Cornet, 6-3, 6-0 to earn her a first title in 16 months.
Williams only gained entry into the Dubai Open with a wild card after falling outside the top 40, yet completed five fine wins.
In doing so she avenged the defeat which the French player had inflicted on her sister Serena Williams in the semi-finals, captured her first Premier level title since 2010, and ensured she would climb back into the world's top 30.
Williams' face was afterwards wreathed with enormous smiles, while Cornet twice dissolved into tears during the match, aware from an early stage that she was unlikely to find a way to halt one of the game's most formidable attacker two nights in a row.
"It's great to be back," Williams said, referring to her capture of the Dubai title four years ago.
"I was expecting to be playing Serena, but Alize played an amazing game in the semis, so congratulations on that.
"I have continued being able to practise, and I have been getting healthier," Williams went on, referring to the long term effects of the immune deficiency which has been threatening her career.
"It hasn't been easy. I have to thank the tournament for a wild card, and my family and Serena for encouraging me. They all kept me up when I was down."
Cornet said: "I think the first set was very, very important, and that's why I was a bit emotional, because I wanted to do better. "
She added: "I would have loved to make like a better final, you know, with a little bit more of suspense.
"And the score is really too hard to finish the week, such a good week, but I will have to take all the positive things out of this week. I think there is a lot, so I'm still very motivated for the rest of the season."
- consistent excellence -
Despite Williams' consistent excellence, the first blow was Cornet's.
Combining two great forehand drives, which dragged her opponent in different directions, she reached deuce on the Williams serve, and then immediately prospered from a double fault.
Williams saved that break point, but conceded the next one with a moderate second serve, which Cornet thumped back hard and deep, forcing an error.
It gave Cornet a break, a lead of 2-1, but from then on Williams asserted her dominance, finishing the match with yet another flurry of fierce drives.
Later Williams commented: "I'm not looking to do anything I did in the past, because I already did that. I'm looking to improve and be a better, smarter Venus. I think obviously this week is a step."
Cornet's consolations were that she had achieved her first final on a hard court surface, and that she had managed four top 20 scalps, including a career best win to reach only her second Premier level final.
She is now very close to being back the top 20 for the first time in five years, a better player than she was then, and with every prospect of further progress.
With her sequence of five wins in this tournament Venus has remained ahead of sister Serena as the active player with the most WTA Tour wins (647 to Serena's 641). Her dream of continuing till the Rio Olympics may yet be alive.