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Mon 21 Apr 2008 07:15 AM

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Serena wins third straight title

Serena Williams stretches winning streak to 15 matches taking 1.3 million-dollar WTA Family Circle Cup.

Serena Williams won her first clay court crown since 2002 and stretched her win streak to 15 matches by taking the 1.3 million-dollar WTA Family Circle Cup final here Sunday.

Fifth-seeded Williams fired nine aces to defeat Russia's Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 and win her third consecutive tournament crown, a victory that will lift her from ninth to sixth in the WTA rankings.

"I'm feeling really good," Williams said. "I'm not even reaching my peak yet. I feel like I can do so much better."

Following crowns earlier this year at Bangalore and Miami, the title was the 31st of Williams' career. The eight-time Grand Slam champion improved to 19-1 this year, showing no signs of injury woes that hampered her in 2007.

"That's my main goal, just stay healthy," Williams said. "If I'm healthy and playing my best it's hard to beat me."

Williams overcame a run of unforced errors late in the second set and improved to 5-1 against Zvonareva.

"It was definitely an up and down final," Williams said. "I've got a lot of errors today but I was glad I was able to come through."

Williams surrendered an early break in the third set but Zvonareva swatted a forehand down the line wide to return the favor and even the last set 2-2.

Zvonareva netted a forehand on Williams' second break point chance in the eighth game to hand Serena a 5-3 lead and the US star held, jumping for joy after a service winner that captured the top prize of 196,900 dollars.

Zvonareva double faulted to hand Williams a break and a 2-1 lead and the US veteran held out to claim the first set when the Russian netted a backhand on a second serve after denying Williams on her first two set points.

Williams was denied on two break points by Zvonareva in the first game of the second set before Zvonareva, 23, broke in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead on her way to forcing a third set.

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