BASTAD, Sweden - Serena Williams beat Klara Zakopalova in the semifinals of the Collector Swedish Open on Saturday for her 50th WTA main draw match win of the year, by far the fastest she has ever struck 50 wins on a season in her whole career. She also made her first International-level final.
Though Zakopalova had beaten her before, Williams was seemingly beyond her league the first half of the match, coming out of the blocks with eight games in a row to build a 60 20 lead. Zakopalova had some fight in her - she caught up to 2-all in the second set, then after falling behind 4-2 she caught up to 4-all - but the No.1-seeded Williams finished off the No.3-seeded Zakopalova anyway, 60 64.
"I was hardly making mistakes in the first set - I have to figure out a way to continue that tennis for more than one set, and I'm definitely going to go back and watch the film," Williams said. "In the second set she started playing a lot better. She was being more aggressive, and I started making some errors on a few key points. I think that was a turning point. I'm happy I could close it out though."
Previously, the most wins Williams had going into the summer hardcourt season was 38 (2003).
This is Williams' first International-level final as well. She had played five events at this level before, her best result being making the semifinals of Cincinnati in 2006 (losing to Vera Zvonareva).
"It was a real battle out there today," Larsson said. "Flavia was playing really well and wasn't even missing in the beginning. I was trying to get some help out there from the crowd and get my feet moving more, and it turned out really good. The crowd was unbelievable - I wish there were more weeks in Bastad during the year - sometimes I even get goosebumps playing in front of them.
"But I'm really excited to play the final here again. With Serena on the other side of the net it's going to be extremely tough out there, but I'll just try my best and keep doing my thing tomorrow."
While Williams has 52 WTA titles, Larsson is chasing after her first - she is 0-2 lifetime in WTA finals, finishing runner-up at Portoroz in 2010 (to Anna Chakvetadze) and here in 2011 (to Polona Hercog).
Williams beat Larsson in their only previous meeting, in Fed Cup play earlier this year.
"She has nothing to lose and everything to gain, and that's a great position to be in," Williams said. "I remember playing her this year. She has a good serve, a good kick - I always thought she'd be good on clay. And I remember her spirit - she was fighting really hard. I'm excited that she's in the final.
"I've had the crowd behind me a lot this week, so I wouldn't be upset if they were for her tomorrow!"