Former world No. 1 Serena Williams stormed into the final of the Stanford Classic WTA hardcourt tournament, dominating Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 6-2.
Williams, a 13-time Grand Slam champion, needed just 59 minutes on Saturday to subdue the big-hitting German and reach her first final since she won Wimbledon last year.
That victory was followed by an 11-month absence from the court as she coped with a series of health problems, including a cut foot and blood clots in her lungs.
“I feel like a kid again,” said Williams, whose ranking has dropped to 169. “When I was younger I had the goal of being in the top 100, then qualifying for a Grand Slam without a wild-card. I have those goals again.”
Williams reached the second round on her return at Eastbourne and reached the fourth round at Wimbledon.
In the final she faces France’s Marion Bartoli, who ended her title defense at the All England Club.
Bartoli advanced on a walkover after eighth-seeded Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova withdrew with a strained abdominal muscle.
Williams had booked her semi-final date with Lisicki with a quarter-final victory over Maria Sharapova.
Lisicki had never played Williams before, and admitted it took her a while to adjust to the American’s power.
“I did not know what to expect,” Lisicki said. “I’m not used to having the ball come back at me so hard. It was a new experience, a learning experience.”
Williams was pleased that she was able to make use of her power without too many errors.
“I want to make fewer mistakes,” Williams said. “I was trying to go for the shots when it’s right.”
Bartoli, ranked ninth in the world, reached her fourth final of the year and her third at Stanford, where she won the title in 2009.
The Frenchwoman had reached the semis after playing just one set of her scheduled quarter-final against Ayumi Morita, before the Japanese withdrew trailing 6-1 because of an ankle injury.
AFP, COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND
Israeli top-seed Shahar Peer and Russian second-seed Nadia Petrova each rallied for a three-set win on Saturday to reach the final of the Maryland Open WTA hardcourt event.
Peer was two points from defeat before fighting back to dispatch Austrian third seed Tamira Paszek 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, while former No. 3 Petrova beat 102nd-ranked, Ecuadoran-born American Irina Falconi 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Peer, who began the week on a five-match losing streak, seeks a sixth career WTA title in the final, but Petrova has won their five previous matches, most recently in 2009 at Los Angeles when Peer took her lone set off the Russian.
Peer, 24, won her most recent titles in 2009 at Guangzhou and Tashkent. She was one victory shy of cracking the top 10 in April, but slid from a career high 11th to 24th in the rankings before switching to new coach Harold Solomon.
Petrova, seeking her 10th WTA title, is battling back after struggling with vertigo earlier this year. She had not reached a final since last year at New Haven and has not won a title since 2008 at Quebec City.
Paszek, who reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon three weeks ago, took the court 16 hours after winning the second-longest WTA match of the year and promptly seized a 4-0 lead in what became another Tamira-thon.
Peer was on the verge of losing in the 10th game of the second set, but hit a backhand winner to break Paszek and level the set on the way to a tie-breaker in which she raced to a 5-0 lead.