CHARLESTON, SC, USA - Saying afterwards it was one of the best matches she has played in her whole career, Serena Williams put on an immaculate display of power tennis in the semifinals of the Family Circle Cup on Saturday, firing 29 winners in just 58 minutes to completely outdo Sam Stosur, 61 61.
Williams had lost a few high-profile matches to Stosur in her career, including last year's US Open final and their only clay court meeting, the quarterfinals of the French Open two years ago. But this was a complete decimation, with Williams firing on all cylinders from the very start and hitting an average of one winner every two minutes - most lethal was her forehand, with 12 winners.
"I have to say this is probably the best match I've played in my career either in a long time or it's up there in the Top 5," Williams said afterwards. "Sam is such an excellent clay court player, and she's Top 10, Top 5, so playing someone that's so good and doing so well is honestly a really good match for me.
"It was one of those days I could have done anything against anybody. Maybe I could have beaten Andy again. I'm definitely ready for him now - just today."
After one of her swinging forehand winners, Williams did a double twirl fist pump. "That was the shot with my eyes closed," she said with a smile. "I didn't mean to spin, and I was on the clay and I kept spinning, and I was like, 'Oh my God, this is so embarrassing right now. I hope nobody remembers this.'"
Stosur didn't play badly at all: she was a solid -2 on winners to errors (seven winners and nine errors). But Williams' +14 differential was just too much.
"To be honest, I actually felt pretty good out there," Stosur said. "My body wasn't aching or really all that tired to be honest, so unfortunately I can't use that as an excuse. I just thought she played very, very well today. I barely got a look in. I tried standing back and standing in, but it didn't really seem to matter what I did on the court today. She came out with the goods every time.
"It wasn't bad luck. She just beat me fair and square."
Williams elaborated on her respect for Stosur: "She's a great player. She has a Grand Slam under her belt, and she beat me in the final of that and played unbelievable. When you're playing someone like her, you have to play well or you're going to lose. So that was my mindset, 'Okay, I'm playing Sam, a great player, so I either come or go home. Go big or go home. Life.'"
Perhaps inspired by Williams' form, No.9 seed Lucie Safarova dropped a 60 60 victory on No.14 seed Polona Hercog in the second semifinal of the day, taking just 64 minutes and fighting off all three of Hercog's game points in the match to record the first double bagel victory of her career at the WTA level.
Williams will be going for her 40th WTA title, which would make her just the third active player to capture that many after Venus Williams (43) and Kim Clijsters (41); she goes in with a 39-15 career record in WTA finals.
Safarova is going for her fifth and biggest WTA title, having won her first four at International events. This is her third Premier final, having been runner-up twice at Paris [Indoors] (to Nadia Petrova in 2007 and Elena Dementieva in 2010).
Williams has beaten Safarova all four times they have played, though Safarova has pushed two of those to three sets (including one last summer).