Kim Clijsters has won the season-ending Women's Tennis Association Championships in Doha by defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the final 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. The Belgian is only the fifth woman to win the event three or more times.
Clijsters outplayed her 20-year-old opponent in a hard-fought first set that lasted about an hour and then steamrolled to a 4-1 lead in the second.
But Wozniacki was determined to put up a fight. The Dane managed to level the score at five games each and then broke her opponent's serve before clinching the second set.
Clijsters dominated the decider and eventually wrapped up the win in two hours and 19 minutes. She attributed the victory to her 13 years of experience as a professional player.
Despite losing, Wozniacki will end the year as world number one.
On Thursday, she shrugged off criticism that she is unworthy of the ranking because she has yet to win a grand slam.
"I know that I've had a great season," she said. "I've won six tournaments so far, and my friends and family are the ones that mean the most to me, and that's what I care about."
Wozniacki had been the talk of the town all week in Doha, but her achievements were slightly overshadowed on Friday when reigning Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva unexpectedly announced her retirement from tennis, hinting she would like to start a family.
"To be honest with you, if I would be a man, I would never stop playing," she said. "But at the age of 29, I have to think about something else. And I think I'm ready for the big change in my life."
Dementieva went on to suggest that the WTA could see a mass exodus of players in the near future.
"I think we're going to see some more young players coming on the tour and playing in the top level because I think this is kind of time to change," she said. "There are a lot of 29-, 27-, 30-year-old players that are going to retire in a year or two so for sure we're going to see some new faces coming up."
Wozniacki was the only woman under 25-years of age to qualify for this year's WTA Championships. Victoria Azarenka, 21, was later brought in as a substitute for Serena Williams, who withdrew because of injury.
WTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stacey Allaster says tour sponsors are already making plans to familiarize the public with younger competitors.
"I think in 2011 you'll see a lot of new marketing programs specifically targeted on the young players, who are in that 30 to 50 [world ranking] category -the next group of stars. And that's fantastic for us because we need that energy to help market and promote those future stars," said Allester.
But until the up-and-coming stars begin knocking the veterans out of the big tournaments, fans can still look forward to cheering for some old, familiar faces.