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Serena sets female athlete earnings mark

MELBOURNE, Australia - All those winner's checks SerenaWilliams collects add up: By reaching two finals at the AustralianOpen, she broke golf star Annika Sorenstam's record for careerprize money by a female athlete with nearly $23 million.

Williams was busy Thursday, first beating Elena Dementieva ofRussia 6-3, 6-4 in the singles semifinals, then pairing with oldersister Venus for a victory in the doubles semifinals.

Even if the American were to lose both title matches, she wouldleave Australia with career earnings of about $22.7 million,according to the WTA Tour, eclipsing Lindsay Davenport's women'stennis prize record by more than $500,000, and Sorenstam's total bymore than $150,000.

If Williams wins two Australian Open championships this week,she'll push her haul above $23.5 million.

Told of the news, the 27-year-old Williams recalled her firstcheck of $240 in prize money from an event in Canada in 1995.

"It's amazing how much women's tennis has grown since I joinedthe tour 14 years ago," she said. "I am very proud to havereached this milestone for me, my family and all women athletes outthere."

Williams will play Dinara Safina of Russia in the AustralianOpen singles final Saturday, bidding for a 10th Grand Slam singleschampionship, most among active players. She and her sister will beseeking their eighth Grand Slam women's doubles title when theyface Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Ai Sugiyama of Japan inthat final.

Overall, the younger Williams has won 32 singles titles and 14doubles titles.

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