Serena wins at Stanford in final Olympic tuneup
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
AP Sports Writer
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Serena Williams has spent most of her career matching - and often breaking - older sister Venus' records. After tying Venus for the most WTA Tour titles among active players, there's little left for her to equal.
Except Olympic gold.
Williams overcame a shaky start and two service breaks to beat lucky loser Coco Vandeweghe 7-5, 6-3 Sunday for her second straight Bank of the West Classic title in a final tuneup before the London Olympics.
Serena and Venus won gold in doubles in 2000 and 2008 and will go for a third again this year when play begins July 28 on Wimbledon's grass. While Venus took home gold in singles in 2000, Serena has never medaled on her own.
"It would mean a lot to me, but I can't lay all my hopes and dreams on just that," she said. "But it would mean a lot. I would like to try to get one."
Sustaining the moment has been a big reason behind Williams' busy schedule.
Eight days after winning Wimbledon, Williams saved a set point and won the final four games of the opening set. It was the 43rd WTA Tour championship of Williams' career, tying older sister Venus for the most among active players.
Williams even summoned her father, Richard, all the way from Europe for her final two matches to soak in the moment.
"I haven't won a tournament without him or my mom here," she said. "I just felt like I didn't want to go out (without him). Plus, he's going to be at home watching everything here anyway."
The first all-American WTA final on home soil in eight years was hardly a one-sided affair.
The 20-year-old Vandeweghe, who failed to make it out of qualifying and got into the main draw when Bojana Jovanovski withdrew with an injury, moved the 14-time Grand Slam champion and her highlighter-yellow outfit all over the court to give Williams her only real challenge of the week. Vandeweghe was aiming to be only the second "lucky loser" to win a WTA tournament and first since Andrea Jaeger in 1980 in Las Vegas.
"There's happiness that I'm in the final and there's sadness that I lost," Vandeweghe said. "I just have to kind of put it on the back burner and move on."
The final result remained the same for both.
Williams whipped a backhand crosscourt that Vandeweghe sent sailing wide for an early break to go ahead 2-0. In what looked to be another rout by Williams, the young American showed some fight.
Vandeweghe immediately broke twice in the first set - both with Williams struggling on tosses into the sunny side of the court - and ripped a 121 mph ace in her next game. But serving for the set at 5-4, Vandeweghe crumbled when she had the chance to put a dent in Williams' confidence before the London Olympics.
All it took was one point.
Williams walloped a soft second serve with another backhand crosscourt to save a set point. And on the sixth break chance of the game, Vandeweghe double-faulted - a theme throughout a sun-splashed afternoon in the biggest moments of the match.
She finished with five double-faults and six aces. Williams didn't fare much better with nine aces and six double-faults, but she won 81 percent of her first-serve points and waited for her opponent to make mistakes.
Vandeweghe again double-faulted to give Williams a set point at 6-5, and Williams smacked another backhand crosscourt that Vandeweghe barely got a racket on. Williams gave a light fist pump and stayed steady, just as she had for most of the last month in her latest rise up the rankings.
Another double-fault by Vandeweghe on break point gave Williams a 3-1 lead in the second set. Williams served out the match and put away one final forehand winner on match point, giving another light fist pump and showing little emotion - especially compared to her hug-filled celebration with family eight days earlier on Wimbledon's grass.
The fourth-ranked Williams, still jet-lagged from traveling more than 5,000 miles and eight time zones from the All England Club, never looked at her dominating best at Stanford. But she did exactly what she wanted all week: just win.
"I definitely think I survived," she said. "I don't think I played my greatest. But I do think I was mentally there, and that helped me out a lot."
Not only did she defend her points to stay on track to regain the No. 1 world ranking, she did it on a court that will forever hold a special place in her heart. The tournament is where Williams' comeback took shape last year when she beat Marion Bartoli in the finals for her first WTA title since returning from blood clots in her lungs and two foot operations that threatened her life and career for almost a year.
The last player to win consecutive titles at Stanford was Kim Clijsters in 2005-06. Clijsters is also second behind the Williams sisters with 41 career WTA titles.
The previous all-American final at home on the WTA Tour came when Lindsay Davenport topped Williams in Los Angeles in 2004.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
Updated July 15, 2012