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Vandeweghe, 'fortunate finalist,' loses to Serena

'Lucky loser' advances to her first career final at Bank of the West Classic

Less than a week ago, Coco Vandeweghe was a "lucky loser" after failing to qualify for the Bank of the West Classic, then being added to the main draw when another player dropped out due to injury.

The "lucky loser" went all the way to becoming a fortunate finalist yesterday against Wimbledon Champion Serena Williams, where she put up a mighty battle but lost, 7-5, 6-3.

Vandeweghe advanced to her first career final following a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Yanina Wickmayer in Saturday's semifinals at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center.

Vandeweghe faced defending champion Serena Williams in the championship match on Sunday at 1 p.m. (ESPN2). Williams eliminated No. 9 Sorana Cirstea of Romania, 6-1, 6-2, in the other semifinal on Saturday night. Cirstea hurt her chances of an upset with 31 unforced errors.

"I can't believe I'm in another final," said Williams, who won her fifth Wimbledon title only a week ago.

The Williams-Vandeweghe finale was the first All-American title match since 2004.

"I've played her before," Williams said of Vandeweghe. "It's not going to be easy. People are more dangerous when they have nothing to lose."

Vandeweghe expressed her disappointment at losing in qualifying on Sunday, but added: "I made the most of an opportunity . . . once I got in, you go into a tournament thinking you're going to win the whole thing. Otherwise, why bother showing up."

The 20-year-old, 6-foot-1 Vandeweghe, ranked No. 120 in the world, used 12 aces and a strong power game to upset the 21-year-old, 6-foot Wickmayer, who is ranked 37th and was seeded No. 5.

Vandeweghe was the aggressor throughout the match against the native of Belgium and only lapsed briefly in the second set when her big serve, which topped out at 120 mph, betrayed her momentarily.

Vandeweghe regained her form and served six of her 12 aces in the deciding set that saw her leading 5-2 when Wickmayer double-faulted on match point.

Vandeweghe is the first player of "lucky loser" status to reach a WTA final since Melinda Czink in 2005. Vandeweghe is also the first Bank of the West qualifier to reach the finals since Aleksandra Wozniak won the 2008 title -- by beating Marion Bartoli.

"It's cool," Williams said. "Everybody is always asking about American players and now we have a great player like Coco who is doing well. She took her second chance to the ultimate degree. I'm really happy for her. I'm so glad she's American. If she goes all the way and wins, I would be really, really happy for her."

Williams, who heads back to England for the Olympics in a couple of days, needed less than an hour to get past Cirstea, a former top 20 player until injuries slowed her down last year.

Williams made quick work of Cirstea despite converting just 38 percent of her first serves. It was so bad that she returned to court to work out the kinks.

"I really wasn't happy," Williams said. "I did what was necessary to win. I did what I knew I needed to do, and I think that's important."

Williams has just two more items on her list before returning to Europe. The first is Sunday's final. Second, she will be introducing as new line of clothing on Home Shopping Network on Monday.

The Williams-Vandeweghe final was the first all-American final in a WTA event since Serena beat her sister Venus Williams in the WTA Championships in November of 2009, in Qatar.

The last All-American final played in the U.S. was in 2004 in Los Angeles, when Lindsay Davenport beat Serena Williams. Davenport beat Venus Williams for the title of the Bank of the West that same year.

--Palo Alto Weekly Online Sports

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