S. Williams to face Safarova in Family Circle final

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Serena Williams even impressed herself with her powerful showing at the Family Circle Cup on Saturday.

Williams needed less than an hour to dispatch second-seeded Samantha Stosur 6-1, 6-1 and advance to the clay-court final.

“You know, I think it was just one of those days that I could have done anything against anybody,” Williams said.

There aren’t many people in the world who could’ve withstood Williams’ performance at the Family Circle Tennis Center. The 10th-ranked player was on her game from the start, winning the match’s first eight points and rarely letting Stosur catch a breath.

On Sunday, Williams will face Lucie Safarova, a 6-0, 6-0 winner over Polona Hercog.

Stosur held serve to cut Williams’ lead to 2-1, then lost the next nine games. Stosur, who defeated Williams to win the U.S. Open title last September, got a loud cheer from the crowd when she prevented Williams from shutting her out in the second set.

Williams hit a forehand winner to end the match moments later, and eliminated Stosur from a tournament for the second straight week. Williams beat Stosur 7-5, 6-3 last week at the Sony Ericsson Open, serving 20 aces — tying per personal best — in the hard-court win.

Williams only had seven aces in this one, but was in command of nearly every shot she hit.

“I have to say this is probably the best match I’ve played in my career, either in a long time or it’s up there in the top five,” Williams said.

Safarova has lost all four times she’s played Williams. The 25-year-old from the Czech Republic watched the opening semifinal and said she’ll have a plan to slow down Williams’ attack. After all, Safarova didn’t lose a game in her semi, something she joked about with Serena.

“‘Yeah, I got you,’” Safarova told Williams when they saw each other after the match.

If Williams matches her Saturday effort in the finals, Safarova will have her hands full. “It’s a great challenge. She’s a great player,” Safarova said, “and you see what she’s done today.”

And that’s running over one of the world’s top players in Stosur.

Stosur, the skilled 28-year-old ranked fifth, combines a powerful serve with the fitness to chase down about any shot. She rallied on Friday to defeat Serena’s older sister, Venus, and was seeking to become just the eighth player to beat both Williams sisters in the same tournament.

Serena quickly made sure that didn’t happen.

She cracked serves over 100 mph, landed returns in both corners and frustrated Stosur at every turn.

Stosur moved up on Williams’ serve, varied her own serves — anything to slow down Williams’ relentless march. Stosur hoped to regroup in the second set, yet Williams’ powerful serves and ground strokes kept coming.

Already down 30-love in the second set’s opening game, Williams sent a rocket shot into the right corner. Stosur tried to chase, realized she couldn’t and slowed her movement, looking to the sky in frustration.

“She was way too good today,” Stosur said. “I think she was pretty happy with the way she played.”

Who wouldn’t be?

The hole in Williams’ Hall-of-Fame resume is clearly on clay. She owns 13 Grand Slam titles, but just one coming at the French Open. Williams beat sister Venus in 2002 for the championship at Roland Garros. Serena reached the semifinals there the next year and has not made it past the quarterfinals in five appearances since.

Williams has gotten only one day’s practice on clay since the Sony Ericsson event ended. Still, she believes she’s sliding better than she has in recent years and excited about her prospects on the surface this year.

The Family Circle Cup is a good start to her season on clay, she said. But that’s all it is, a start.

“I’m trying to play like this at the end of the clay-court season,” she said. “So we’ll see.”

Her only mistake in the match, at least in her eyes — a full-blown 360-degree, pirouette after a winning forehand that had her laughing as she moved ahead 2-0 in the second set.

“I didn’t mean to spin,” Williams said. “I was on clay and I kept spinning and I was like, ‘God, this is so embarrassing right now. I hope nobody remembers this.’”

They’ll remember just about every Williams did in this one, that’s for sure.

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