AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- No.1 seed Serena Williams emphatically booked her spot in the ASB Classic singles final on Saturday, ousting No.3 seed and fellow American Amanda Anisimova, 6-1, 6-1.
"It was very satisfying," Williams told the press, after her victory. "I knew I was going up against a really good player, so I knew I had to step it up."
In the first meeting between two of the top five American players, Williams overwhelmed the rapidly rising 18-year-old, breaking the teenager five times in her 43-minute victory, and moving into her first Auckland final in just her second appearance at the event.
"I’m feeling fit, I feel like I’ve had some good matches," Williams stated. "Long rallies, short rallies, power players, the elements. This is exactly what I needed going into [the Australian Open in] Melbourne."
"I feel like everyone that I’ve played has been a quality player," Williams added. "So I knew that I’d have to keep playing at a better level."
23-time Grand Slam champion Williams converted all five of her break points and saved the only break point she faced in the encounter, slamming 17 winners and only firing six unforced errors during her dominant performance.
World No.25 Anisimova, a semifinalist at Roland Garros last season and the fifth-best-ranked American in the WTA singles rankings, had 11 winners, but was undone by 19 unforced errors, and could only win two of her 14 second-serve points during the clash.
Williams had extremely minimal trouble racing through the opening frame. After building an early 2-0 lead, the former World No.1 used blistering backhands to reach triple break point to extend her advantage. Anisimova double faulted on the first of those, and Williams reached 3-0 after winning 11 straight points.
Top-seeded Williams fended off the only break point she faced in the set with a service winner en route to 4-0, before Anisimova finally got on the board with a strong serve of her own to hold for 4-1.
This, however, only delayed the inevitable, as Williams took control of the latter stage of the opener with her forehand -- using both power and deft touch from that wing -- closing out the set in just over 20 minutes. Williams had 10 winners and only four unforced errors in the opening frame.
Williams continued her commanding performance in the second set, starting off that frame by using tremendous depth on her forehand to break Anisimova for an early 2-0 lead. A second break in favor of Williams came at love for 4-0, and after the top seed held to close out the fifth straight game of the set, Anisimova was staring down a bleak deficit.
The 18-year-old summoned her fighting spirit to slam a forehand winner and hold onto her serve one last time, averting the bagel. Williams, however, blasted a backhand winner down the line in the next game to queue up her first match point, which she converted by forcing an error with one final signature forehand.
Williams will now face another improving American, Jessica Pegula, in the singles final. Pegula overcame Williams’s doubles partner and another former World No.1, Caroline Wozniacki, in three sets in Saturday’s earlier semifinal.
Seven-time Australian Open champion Williams is now one win away from winning her first WTA singles title since becoming a mother.
"It would mean a lot to me," Williams responded, when asked how she felt about potentially claiming the crown. "I’ve just been working hard for the past couple years, putting everything together, so we’re just keeping it going."
"I’m looking forward to playing [Pegula] as well," Williams added. "It’ll be a tough match. I’ll have to bring it in the final."
Both of Sunday’s finals will feature Williams, as she and Wozniacki have also advanced to the doubles final.