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Serena heads to Olympics after winning Bank of West title Sunday

Holds off Coco Vandeweghe in singles final at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium

Serena Williams used her veteran experience to win the 43rd WTA title of her career as she held off Coco Vandeweghe in the singles final in the Bank of the West Classic on Sunday at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium.

It was age versus youth, experience versus inexperience and 14 Grand Slam titles versus none.

In the early going, that didn't seem to matter as Serena Williams battled Coco Vandeweghe for the Bank of the West Classic singles title.

The veteran Williams, however, overcame a shaky start and pulled away to a 7-5, 6-3 victory on Sunday at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center.

In the first all-American final on U.S. soil since 2004, the 30-year-old Williams, ranked No. 4 in the world, claimed her second consecutive Bank of the West Classic singles title over the 20-year-old Vandeweghe, ranked No. 120.

"I think I played well enough to win, for sure," Williams said. "Obviously, I could do a lot better and play stronger. But, also, there were a lot of positives from that match. I was fighting out there and I really wanted it . . . I definitely survived, because I didn't play my greatest this week. I do think that mentally, I was there."

The win, coming eight days after she captured her fifth Wimbledon crown, marked Williams' 11th straight singles victory and her 43rd career WTA singles title, tying older sister Venus for the most among active players.

"I think Coco played really well," Serena said. "She has a strong, solid game. I knew today's match was going to be tougher because she is such a solid player."

The 20-year-old Vandeweghe, who failed to make it out of qualifying and got into the main draw only when Bojana Jovanovski withdrew with an injury, moved Williams all over the court to give Williams her only real challenge of the week.

"There's a lot to think about," Vandeweghe said. "There's happiness, because I made the final. There's also disappointment, because I lost. So there are a lot of things going through my mind right now. I just have to put it on the back burner, and get ready for my next challenge in San Diego next week.

"I was happy to be in the final and Serena is a great player. So, to push someone like that and be able to serve for the first set is an accomplishment for a player like me who grew up watching Serena."

Trailing 2-0, Vandeweghe immediately broke twice in the first set, both with Williams struggling on tosses into the sunny side of the court, and ripped a 121 mph ace in her next game. But serving for the set at 5-4, Vandeweghe crumbled when she had the chance to put a dent into Williams' final tuneup before the London Olympics.

All it took was one point.

Williams walloped a soft second serve with another backhand crosscourt to save a set point. And on the sixth break chance of the game, Vandeweghe double-faulted, a theme throughout a sun-splashed afternoon in the biggest moments of the match. She finished with five double-faults and six aces.

Williams didn't fare much better with nine aces and six double-faults, but she won 81 percent of her first serve points, a vast improvement from Saturday's semifinal, and waited for her opponent to make mistakes.

Vandeweghe again double-faulted to give Williams a set point at 6-5, and Williams smacked a another backhand crosscourt that Vandeweghe barely got a racket on to take the set.

"Who knows what happens if I win that first set?" Vandeweghe said. "I started off nervous in the first set and lost my first service game. Returning-wise, I thought I could have done a better job, but then again she serves very well. It's tough to get a read on her serve. There are always things in the back of my mind that I wish I would have done. I definitely feel like I could have played better, and who knows what the outcome would have been."

Another double-fault by Vandeweghe on break point gave Williams a 3-1 lead in the second set.

Williams served out the match and put away one final forehand winner on match point, giving another light fist pump and showing little emotion, especially compared to her hug-filled celebration with family eight days earlier on Wimbledon's grass.

"I'd been serving well all week and thought I still served pretty darned well against Serena," Vandeweghe said. "She's a great player, so I was just trying to take advantage of opportunities because she was not going to let me off the hook. Especially on set points, let alone break points. I did a good job of playing my game. It just didn't go my way. I did a pretty good job of coming back in that second set and staying with it."

The fourth-ranked Williams, still feeling the affects of traveling more than 5,000 miles and eight time zones from the All England Club, never looked at her dominating best at Stanford. But, she did exactly what she wanted all week. She just won.

Not only did she defend her points to stay on track to regain the No. 1 world ranking, she did it on a court that will forever hold a special place in her heart.

The tournament is where Williams' comeback took shape last year when she beat Marion Bartoli in the finals for her first WTA title since returning from blood clots in her lungs and two foot operations that threatened her life and career for almost a year.

The last player to win consecutive titles at Stanford was Kim Clijsters in 2005-06. Clijsters is also second behind the Williams sisters with 41 career WTA titles.

The last all-American final at home on the WTA Tour came in 2004, when Lindsay Davenport topped Williams in Los Angeles.

Vandeweghe, meanwhile, was hoping to duplicate Aleksandra Wozniak's 2008 run through qualifying and the main draw that culminated in the singles title. It would have been a magical story.

Serena Williams, however, came up with the best ending.

In the doubles final, Marina Erakovic and Heather Watson defeated the top-seeded duo of Jarmila Gajdosova and Vania King, a former Stanford recruit, in straight sets 7-5, 7-6 (9-7) to take home the title.

"This is my first WTA title, so I am very happy right now," Watson said. "It's such a nice feeling getting to the end of the week and being the last ones here."

The path to the title match for Erakovic and Watson was not easy.

Unseeded in the main draw, the duo won each of their first three matches courtesy of the super-tiebreaker.

After winning their first-round match 6-3, 3-6, 10-5, Erakovic and Watson upset the No. 2 seeded duo of Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears 7-6 (9), 2-6, 10-4 in the quarterfinals and the No. 3 seeded pairing of Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova 7-5, 6-7 (6), 10-7 in the semifinals.

Watson is heading back to her home country to participate in the the Olympics.

She'll see some familiar faces as 16 players entered at Stanford are scheduled to play for their countries in London.

In addition to Williams, Americans Christina McHale and Varvara Lepchenko, Dominika Cibulkova from the Slovak Republic, former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic from Serbia, Russia's Nadia Petrova, Romanians Monica Niculescu, Simona Halep and Sorana Cirstea, Marina Erakovic from New Zealand, Angelique Kerber and Sabine Lisicki of Germany, Croatia's Petra Martic, China's Peng Shuai, and Belgian Yanina Wickmayer will also be joining Watson.

The 2013 Bank of the West Classic is set for July 22-29 at Stanford's Taube Tennis Center.

Palo Alto Online Sports

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