It wasn’t always a smooth ride, but in the end Serena Williams was able to outclass the opposition to win her third Bank of the West title in four years (she didn’t play last year). She was challenged in the first set in each of her matches against Karolina Pliskova, Ana Ivanovic, Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber as she had a series of slow starts. But it isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish. For the 61st time in her Hall of Fame career, she finished with a singles title. Serena has struggled in the Majors this year, but is 4-0 in regular WTA event finals for 2014.
Svetlana Kuznetsova captured her 14th WTA singles title by outlasting rising star Kurumi Nara in three sets, 6-3 4-6 6-4. Nara had upset the 7th seed, Madison Keys, in the first round. In fact, 4 of the top 7 seeds were bounced out in their opening match. In contrast, Svetlana, the 6th seed, was able to reach the final without dropping a set. While pushed by Nara, Kuznetsova added another title to what is likely a Hall of Fame list of accomplishments. It was her first title in 4 years, since winning in San Diego at the 2010 Mercury Insurance Open.
Unfortunately, a knee injury has forced Li Na to withdraw from the entire North American summer hard court series, including the US Open. The 2-time Major winner started her year strongly with a title in Shenzhen and Melbourne at the Australian Open. This kind of reminds me of a few years ago when Kim Clijsters opened the year with a win in Melbourne, regained the #1 ranking but then ended up injured for the majority of the season. Not too long after she was openly talking about her second and final retirement. Li Na is 32 years old. It’s true that more players are having success late in their careers but the Chinese superstar has little time to lose. I imagine her lucrative sponsorships are a reason to stick around, but lingering injuries can sap the will and make an older player consider calling it a career.
Although Simona Halep is not playing in this week’s 2014 Rogers Cup in Canada, Li Na’s inactivity will result in enough of a points hit that Simona will rise to a career high #2 world ranking. The 2014 Roland Garros runner-up has won 8 titles since June 2013 to quickly ascend the WTA singles list. The Romanian star wasn’t even in the top 60 to start 2013. Now she will become the highest ranked female tennis player in her country’s history.
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1 SERENA WILLIAMS (won 7-6 (1) 6-3 vs 3 Angelique Kerber)