By Winsor Dobbin

Paris - French veteran Nathalie Tauziat beat defending champion Serena Williams in straight sets in the final of the $535 000 Indoor Paris Open on Sunday after the American was hampered by a painful knee injury.

Tauziat, the second seed, downed Williams 7-5, 6-2 after the 18-year-old number one seed had been troubled by a ligament injury to her right knee that needed treatment during the match.

Tauziat, who at 32 is the oldest player on the WTA Tour, won after reaching the final here for the first time in eight straight appearances. She will move to a career-high fifth spot in the new WTA rankings to be issued Monday after her victory.

She is only the second French player - behind Mary Pierce - to have a top-five WTA ranking and she celebrated in style with her third title in four months.

Tauziat won the Moscow and Leipzig titles in October and November last year and now has seven WTA Tour titles to her credit in 20 final appearances.

Williams, the 18-year-old US Open champion, had been bidding for her first title in 2000 after winning five events in 1999.

Tauziat earned $87 000 for her victory, while the runner-up collected $43 500.

Williams had been bidding to become only the second player to retain the Paris Indoor title, but saw her record in finals drop to 5-2. Martina Navratilova won the same event in 1993-94.

Williams hadn't dropped a set in reaching the final but Tauziat was smart enough to be able to match Williams' raw power with clever placement in the first set.

The French player broke for 3-2 only for Williams to break straight back but then broke again for 6-5 and saved four break back points before taking the set 7-5.

Williams has only one way of playing - slugging flat out - and her accuracy did not match her power, particularly after she began to limp slightly midway through the first set. She had light strapping placed on her right knee by trainer Sue Noble between the first and second sets and was close to tears later in the match.

WTA Tour spokesman Raquel Martin said Williams had been treated for an anterior ligament problem.

Tauziat broke in the first game of the second set as Williams' shots became increasingly erratic.

Williams had seven points to hold for 4-3 but Tauziat grabbed her first break point of the game to take a 5-2 second-set lead and the contest was as good as over.

It was Tauziat's first career victory in three meetings with Williams and she became the third French winner of the event, following Julie Halard-Decugis in 1996 and Pierce in 1998. - Sapa-AFP