Former world No. 1 Serena Williams surged past Marion Bartoli 7-5, 6-1 on Sunday to win the WTA Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, her first title in more than a year, signaling her US Open intentions.
Williams, a 13-time Grand Slam champion who is battling to rebuild her ranking after an injury layoff of almost a year, claimed her first title since Wimbledon last year.
“Coming back and hearing the claps when I walk out there are moments that I truly missed,” Williams said. “It’s so awesome to be back and to be a part of those moments. Not everyone can be a sports — I don’t know if ‘star’ sounds full of myself — but I’ve worked hard for that title. So, yes, I say it and I take pride in it.”
The American was twice down a break in the opening set, but she broke Bartoli when the French third seed served for the set at 5-4.
That launched a roll of eight straight games to the American as she pocketed the first set and took a 5-0 lead in the second.
After Bartoli held serve for 5-1, Williams served out the match after 1 hour, 22 minutes.
With the victory, Williams avenged her fourth-round loss to Bartoli at Wimbledon and showed that even though her ranking has plummeted she could be a contender at the last Grand Slam of the year, the US Open that starts in New York on Aug. 29.
Williams has already elected to use an injury-protected ranking to gain entry to the US Open main draw, the US Tennis Association said this month.
The system allows a player who has been sidelined for six months or more by injury to use a special injury-protected ranking to enter up to eight tournaments, including one Grand Slam.
Williams missed almost a year after suffering a cut foot that required surgery shortly after last year’s Wimbledon triumph, an injury that was later followed by dangerous blood clots in her lungs.
With her victory, she boosted her ranking from 169th in the world into the top 80.
“I hated those triple digits,” she said with a laugh. “Now I’ve got to get to single digits.”
Last week, Williams has looked like that might not take too long.
Her progress to the final included a dominant 6-1, 6-3 quarter-final victory over former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova, this year’s Wimbledon runner-up, and a victory over Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki in the semi-finals.
She faced a well-rested opponent in Bartoli, who reached the final on a walkover when Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova withdrew because of an abdominal strain.
Bartoli said a bruise on her right hand began to bother her in the opening set, affecting her grip on the racket, but it didn’t cost her the match.
“Serena, she already can improve from one day to the other,” Bartoli said. “So you can imagine from one match to the other. I knew before the match started it was different than Wimbledon.”
Williams stayed calm in the face of Bartoli’s early aggression, but the American had some trouble with the sun in some of her service games.
After falling behind 4-2, Williams broke back to level the set at 4-4, before Bartoli broke again to have a chance to serve for the set at 5-4, but from there it was all Williams.
“I’m sure she’s going to tell you that she can play even better and I’m sure that she will,” Bartoli said.
Although Williams has now thrust herself into the US Open discussion, she wasn’t quite ready to tip herself as the favorite.