Serena downs Bartoli for Stanford title

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STANFORD, California, August 1 – Former world number one Serena Williams surged past Marion Bartoli 7-5, 6-1 Sunday to win the WTA Stanford crown, her first title in more than a year, signalling 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 2010.

“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 broke Bartoli as 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 one hour and 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 August 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 her 2010 Wimbledon triumph, an injury that was later followed by dangerous blood clots in her lungs.

With her win, she’ll boost 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.”

This 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 number one Maria Sharapova, this year’s Wimbledon runner-up, in the quarter-finals and a victory over Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki in the semis.

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 in her right hand began to bother her in the opening set, affecting her grip on the racquet, but 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.

From there, however, it was all Williams.

“I’m sure she’s going to tell you that she can play even better,” Bartoli said. “And I’m sure that she will.”

Although Williams has now thrust herself into the US Open discussion, she wasn’t quite ready to tip herself as the favorite.

“I haven’t thought about (the US Open),” she said. “Right now, I just put myself right at the bottom.

“My confidence is better, which is what I was planning for. I don’t even think like that. When I get there, I’m going to have the same chance as everybody else.”

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