Serena dominates in final of Family Circle Cup

By Pete Iacobelli

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, April 8 2012 2:40 p.m. MDT

This photo provided the Family Circle Cup shows a recreation of the original photo taken nearly 40 years ago of the original nine women tennis players. Photo recreation was taken Friday, April 6, 2012, at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C. Top row from left to right: Valerie Ziegenfuss, Billie Jean King, Nancy Richey, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon Bottom row from left to right: Judy Tegart Dalton, Kerry Melville Reid, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman (daughter of Gladys Heldman).

Chris Smith, Photo Provided by Family Circle Cup

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Serena Williams has plenty to keep her busy. There's college classes, a relaunch of her clothing line and a possible move to Paris.

And, oh yeah, there's that brand of dominant tennis that Williams plays like few others in the world.

Williams capped a week of powerful performances with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Lucie Safarova to win the Family Circle Cup on Sunday. It was Williams' 40th WTA title and first on clay in four years since capturing this championship in 2008.

Williams didn't expect to show so strongly in her first event of the season on clay. She said the steady stream of things she deals with off the tennis court helps keep her focused when she's on it.

"I'm just trying to keep my mind busy," Williams said. "I'm doing so much it keeps me staying in the moment."

This week, that's been playing some of the most dominant matches of her career. Williams followed up a 6-1, 6-1 steamroll over Samantha Stosur, the world's fifth-ranked player, in the semifinals on Saturday with her rout of Safarova.

Williams said she had some mediocre practices this week, yet saved her best when it counted most.

"I've never played, I can say, consistently at such a high level with low errors" the last two matches, Williams said.

"And the scary thing is," she says, "I could've served so much better."

Really?

Williams was dominant on her serves this week. She wasn't broken in her final four matches, going 25-0 in her service games. The closest Safarova came was in the first set when she couldn't cash in on break points in the third and fifth games. Williams escaped both, getting out of the final jam with a 116 mph service winner to lead 5-0.

Safarova avoided the double-bagel, the 6-0, 6-0 fate she hung on Polona Hercog to reach the final, by taking the fourth game of the second set at love. Safarova pounded a forehand winner to loud applause, smiling and lifting her head in relief.

Williams wrapped it up with a 107-mph ace, her fifth of the match, and received a long ovation from the crowd. She leads the WTA with 108 aces on the season.

"She was amazing," said Safarova, who fell to 0-5 against Williams. "She deserves to be the champion."

With her 40th title, Williams moved one away from Kim Clijsters among active players on the career list. Venus Williams leads with 43 championships.

Williams said her play was truly a surprise since it was so early in the clay-court season. Her last two finals appearances on the surface both took place in Charleston — a loss to Justine Henin in 2003 and her win over Vera Zvonareva in 2008.

Williams had just a day or so after the Sony Ericsson Open to practice on the slower clay at the Family Circle Tennis Center. She looked rusty in her opening match, a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Elena Vesnina on Tuesday.

But Williams came back in her next match with a much sharper game. She took out Marina Erakovic 6-2, 6-2 and was in control in her quarterfinals win over Sabine Lisicki, who retired in the first set after twisting her left ankle.

However, Williams was at her best on the weekend.

She didn't give Stosur, the reigning U.S. Open champion, room to breathe in the semifinals. Williams ended the clay-court run with a commanding victory over the 26th-ranked Safarova.

Williams is not scheduled to play again until next month in Madrid, then at the Italian Open before moving on to Paris for the year's second Grand Slam, the French Open.

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