Serena Continues Win Streak in Charleston
Published April 20, 2008 12:00
CHARLESTON, SC, USA - Serena Williams put the finishing touches to championship clay court form on Sunday afternoon with a hard-fought 64 36 63 victory against Vera Zvonareva in the Family Circle Cup final. It is her third clay court title, following title runs in 2002 at Rome and Roland Garros.
In spite of her No.5 seeding, Williams was considered by many as one of the two or three top contenders at the event, alongside top seed Jelena Jankovic and No.2 seed Maria Sharapova. After all she came into Charleston on a 10-match winning streak that brought her back-to-back titles at Bangalore and Miami. But Jankovic fell to No.9 seed Vera Zvonareva in the quarters and Williams beat Sharapova in the same round; Williams was the only one still standing on Sunday afternoon.
No.9 seed Zvonareva was building her own momentum on the other half of the draw, following up her 62 36 62 win over Jankovic with an even harder-fought 63 67(2) 63 victory over No.4 seed Elena Dementieva in the semis. With her wins over the No.5-ranked Jankovic and No.8-ranked Dementieva, it was the first time ever the Russian took two Top 10 scalps at the same tournament.
The final was incredibly competitive with both players hitting solidly from all areas of the court and breaks of serve few and far between. Williams drew first blood in the third game of the opening set, breaking for a 2-1 lead and hanging on for a 6-4 win. Zvonareva retaliated in the second set, breaking for 4-2 then holding on for a 6-3 win. With that it seemed like when Zvonareva broke for 2-1 in the third it was over; but Williams has never been one to follow a trend.
"I'm not one to be counted out, even if I'm down 5-0 and match point," Williams said. "I felt like I was making a lot of errors today and needed to relax, more than I did my other matches. I felt if I could just make some more shots I'd be fine. I started making some, buckled down and just did what I needed to do."
Having struggled with a bit of inconsistency off of the ground until that point, a resilient Williams tightened her game up and broke back straight away for 2-all, then again for 5-3 before serving out the 2008 Family Circle Cup.
"I just wanted to stay focused, and I wanted to win really badly at that point in the third set," Williams continued. "That crowd was definitely really behind me. It makes me want to come back. If this was the only tournament I could play, it makes me want to come. It's just been a great week. I love it. I love it."
"She can come up with the big shots at the key moments, and that's what she did today," Zvonareva said. "She never made a mistake when I was up, and she didn't give me any chances. I could have done a much better job holding serve, which I wasn't able to do at the right time, but the match was really even. It was hard to predict who was going to win it until the last time she broke me."
Zvonareva has also had a phenomenal start to the season, highlighted by big finals, at Doha and here.
"It has been a great start to the season for me, especially since I got injured before my first final of the year and I wasn't able to play for one month," the Russian said. "It just feels great, but there are many more tournaments to come and I'm going to try to do my best in those as well."
Williams is now the second player this year to win three Sony Ericsson WTA Tour titles, following wins at Bangalore and Miami in her last two events. Sharapova has also won three, at the Australian Open, Doha and last week at Amelia Island.
"I feel like I have some momentum behind me and I just want to keep going," Williams said. "Right now I'm looking ahead to Berlin. That's my next event and I'm just taking it one event at a time. As long as I'm healthy, I can do well."
Other headlines during the week included Alizé Cornet breaking through to the semifinals before falling to eventual champ Williams, and the blockbuster quarterfinal clash between the American and Sharapova. Also grabbing Family Circle Cup glory were Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama, who won the doubles trophy, becoming the first Slovenian and Japanese players in the tournament's 35-year history to do so.