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Birthday present

Halard-Decugis turns 30, wins doubles with Sugiyama

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Latest: Sunday September 10, 2000 04:13 PM

  Julie Halard-Decugis, left,  Ai Sugiyam What better way to celebrate your birthday than by winning your first career Grand Slam title. AP

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. (Reuters) -- Julie Halard-Decugis of France celebrated her 30th birthday in style at the U.S. Open tennis championships on Sunday by winning her first career Grand Slam title.

The Frenchwoman teamed with Ai Sugiyama of Japan to capture the women's doubles title as the second-seeded duo downed 10th seeds Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Elena Likhovtseva of Russia 6-0 1-6 6-1.

Sugiyama won her first Grand Slam crown at the U.S. Open last year when she teamed with Mahesh Bhupathi of India to claim the mixed doubles title.

"That's why I chose Ai, to give me that birthday present today. I'm so happy to win my first Grand Slam," said a beaming Halard-Decugis at the awards ceremony.

In addition to her first Grand Slam crown, Halard-Decugis earned $170,000 -- her share of the $340,000 winner's check.

"Today is Julie's birthday and she told me we have to get her a really good present," joked Sugiyama.

Black and Likhovtseva will split $170,000 as runners-up. The losing finalists received the gift of the competition when defending champions Venus and Serena Williams pulled out just prior to the semifinals, allowing Black and Likhovtseva into the final on a walkover.

The reigning Wimbledon doubles champions withdrew immediately after Serena Williams was knocked out of the singles competition by Lindsay Davenport in the quarterfinals, citing a recurrence of a foot injury to Serena.

Venus Williams went on to win her first U.S. Open singles title, beating Davenport in straight sets in Saturday's final.


 
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