Maybe Victoria Azarenka should still be ranked No. 1 after all.
Azarenka will lose her spot as the world's top-ranked women's tennis player on Monday, eclipsed by Serena Williams. However, it was the outgoing No. 1 who prevailed Sunday in the final of the Qatar Open with a hard-fought, 7-6 (8-6), 2-6, 6-3 victory over the incoming No. 1.
Williams certainly has the resume to be the new No. 1, winning the last two Grand Slam championships of 2012 and the Olympics. She was guaranteed to be the new No. 1 on Monday after her quarterfinal win on Friday.
However, Azarenka is no slouch. She did capture her second straight Australian Open title last month and Sunday's victory over Williams gave the Belarusian star a 14-0 match record to start the year. Her only "loss" in 2013 came via walkover when she withdrew before a semifinal against Williams at the Aussie Open tune-up in Brisbane because of a toe injury.
Azarenka's win Sunday snapped a nine-match losing streak against Williams and gave her a 2-11 lifetime mark against the American star. Her only previous victory came in the 2009 Miami final, a 6-3, 6-1 triumph.
Williams was on the verge of capturing the first set Sunday, rallying from a 5-2 deficit in the tiebreaker to earn a set point. Azarenka, though, won the last three to take it.
The disappointment might have spurred Williams, who broke at love for a 2-1 lead in the second set and rolled from there to force a third.
Azarenka, though, regrouped and won the first three games. She built a 5-2 lead and had a match point that Williams saved, but Azarenka won the first three points of the ninth game for three match points and soon after finished it off, completing the nearly 2 1/2-hour marathon to successfully defend her Doha crown.
"I won't say I didn't feel pressure, I was just really into the match and really focused on what I had to do," said Azarenka. "Near the end she saved a match point with a good serve -- that's what you normally expect to get from Serena when she's in trouble -- a bullet. But it wasn't a big deal, really. I just had to keep my composure and make another opportunity and create another match point."
Williams committed 48 unforced errors.
"I made so many errors," said Williams. "It was just weird. My serve -- it was just one of those days. I'm having too many of those days. I've got to cut them out. This whole week I just don't think I played my best tennis. But I was fighting every match. I was really excited to make it to the final with the game I was playing all week."
Williams was trying for her 48th career title and second of 2013. She won in Brisbane and came up short in the Australian Open with a quarterfinal loss to fellow American Sloane Stephens.
Azarenka improved to 16-11 all-time in title matches. Her 14-0 start is the best since Martina Hingis opened the 1997 campaign 37-0.