Last June in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, Marion Bartoli stared down Serena Williams for her initial victory over the defending champion. Despite Williams’ twelve month absence from competition and only her second tournament back, Bartoli’s triumph was classified as a major upset.
Whether one calls it revenge or redemption, Williams was looking to make a statement in the final against Bartoli. After a tough first set, Williams vanquished Bartoli 7-5,6-1 at the Bank of the West Classic to claim her premier title since 2010 Wimbledon.
Due to Dominika Cibulkova withdrawing from their semifinal match because of an abdominal strain, Bartoli had an extra day of rest. Yet, unlike Wimbledon, fitness has not been an issue for Williams this week.
A noticeably more in shape Williams required just 69 minutes to dismiss 2011 Wimbledon finalist Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals. The following night in the semifinals, Williams dispatched 2011 Wimbledon semifinalist Sabine Lisicki in 59 minutes.
However, knowing that she won their ultimate meeting gave Bartoli a lot of confidence. Early on, the 2009 Bank of the West Classic champion gave Williams plenty to ponder.
In their fourth clash, Bartoli was aggressive from the start. By forcing errors from Williams, Bartoli capitalized on her third break point chance and went ahead 2-1. Through varying her serve, Bartoli flummoxed Williams to conserve a 4-2 lead.
With Williams’ forehand finding the bottom of the net, Bartoli had the opportunity to get a double break cushion. Still, with clutch serving, Williams fended off a total of three break points to keep the arrear to one break.
Subsequent to obtaining the upper hand in a long rally and finishing with a forehand winner, Williams manufactured double break point, her initial ones of the day. When Bartoli double faulted, the players were leveled at 4 all.
The two traded breaks the next two games until Williams ultimately held to go in front 6-5. On a miscue by Bartoli, Williams arrived at set point. With Bartoli’s pass sailing long, Williams secured the maiden set.
From that moment on, Williams was on cruise control. Following a prompt service game, Serena broke for a 2-0 edge in the second set. Then, with an overhead winner, Williams consolidated for 3-0.
Still famished, with a backhand down the line winner, Williams captured a second break for 4-0. After Bartoli carried her first game of the set, by striking a winner, Williams had championship point. As Bartoli’s return landed out of play, Williams sealed her extraordinary week.
Although Williams was satisfied to reach her first final in thirteen months, she was overjoyed to bank the title. Serena was especially grateful to the crowd for “their love and support . . .It’s so cool. . . I’m happy to be back”.
Williams acknowledged that she knew it would be a battle coming into the final saying “[Bartoli] has a good serve and she is a good player”. Williams admitted that she prepared herself for the possibility of being runner-up: “I got this far and no matter what happened”, this week is a step in the right direction.
With her maiden title in Stanford, the 38th of her career, Williams will leap from a ranking of 169 into the top 80. Depending on how well Serena performs in Toronto and Cincinnati, she could be seeded by the time the U.S. Open rolls around.