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Tour report - Serena equals Venus in Stanford

A fan shows her support for Serena Williams.
by Alexandra Willis
Monday 16 July 2012

Pity the poor tennis writers. Serena Williams's remarkable return to the All England Club, a passage of seven matches which saw her drag herself back from defeat more than once to claim an astonishing fifth singles Championship, not to mention the doubles too, has had the world's scribes digging deep into their bags of Scrabble letters to do the achievement justice. 

And then, just eight days later, several time zones away, the younger Williams was found lofting another piece of silverware. She successfully defended the WTA title in Stanford, California, on hard courts. The sort of tournament she might well have said no thanks to in her earlier years in light of the previous week's activities. Scrabble boards, letters and bags out the window, Serena has proved yet again, that just when you think she might have said her last piece, she goes and tops it. But with humility, too. 

The field in Stanford was not exactly on a par with that of SW19. Coco Vandeweghe, her opponent in the final, was not Agnieszka Radwanska. But there was plenty of time and space for Serena to un-do herself. She was on the scrappy side, her serve a minnow of the four aces in 49 seconds at Wimbledon. But she did enough to win, 7-5, 6-3, equalling sister Venus's 43 career singles titles, a record among active players, and 10th on the all-time list.

And, as ever these days, she was thankful to. 

"I've never felt this fit, this strong, this happy to play - and I think I can be even better," Williams said. "I want to sustain this momentum and build on what I did at Wimbledon. I'm going to get back on the grass now for the Olympics - I'm not sure when I'm heading back to London, but I'll do it as soon as I can."

There's no predicting anything with Serena Williams. But could she be about to embark on a passage of her career similar to Andre Agassi? It could well be.

For Vandeweghe meanwhile, the first lucky loser to reach a WTA final since Melinda Czink in 2005, it was an eye-opener. But a constructive one. 

"The thing that impressed me the most about Serena was just how great of a person she is, as far as all the nice things she said about me at the ceremony, and the things she said afterwards," Vandeweghe said. "To have someone you grew up watching say those things to you, it's just a really nice feeling.

"There's a lot of things going through my mind right now - happiness I was in the final and disappointment I lost today - but I'm just going to put all that on the backburner for now and start focusing on my next tournament in San Diego."

The doubles in Stanford meanwhile featured a familiar smiling face in Heather Watson, who won her first WTA title of any kind alongside Marina Erakovic, defeating top seeds Jarmila Gajdosova and Vania King 7-5, 7-6(7). The young Brit, who is standing at a career-high ranking of world No.71 and has vaulted to the position of British No.1 on the strength of her run to the third round of Wimbldon, continues to earn plaudits everywhere she goes.

"This is my first WTA title so I'm really happy right now!" Watson said. "It's such a nice feeling getting to the end of the week and being the last ones here. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy match today - they're both great players and we knew we would really have to win it, they weren't going to give it to us.

"We ended up coming out on top and have the silverware to prove it - woohoo! But there won't be any celebration for me, because now I'm flying straight to Carlsbad. I'm training tomorrow and then playing my first match the next day!"

Across the seas in Palermo, Sicily, French Open runner-up Sara Errani because the first Italian woman to win four singles titles in a season when she saw off Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1, 6-3 to claim the title.

"It's a magic period for me," Errani said. This year I've played some fantastic tennis on clay, losing only a few matches, but I really want to improve my results on hard and grass."

But Palermo drew attention for other reasons, too. It proved to be the unlikely site of Laura Robson's first-ever WTA semi-final, the 18-year-old making the last four on her weakest surface before falling to Zahlavova Strycova in three. The British teenager has climbed into the top 100 as a result, to world No.91, meaning that alongside Watson, Anne Keothavong (No.76), and Elena Baltacha (No.100), Britain has four women in the top 100 for the first time since 12th March 1991.

Meanwhile on the ATP World Tour, while Roger Federer finally surpassed Pete Sampras's record of 286 total weeks as the world No.1 this week, John Isner lifted the Newport, Rhode Island trophy on grass, Marin Cilic won the title in Umag on clay, Janko Tipsarevic triumphed on clay in Stuttgart, and David Ferrer won on hard in Bastad

Next up for the tours are the WTA events in Carlsbad, San Diego, and Bastad, and the ATP events in Hamburg, Atlanta and Gstaad.

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