• Serena Williams wins her third Bank of the West title

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    Serena Williams AFP PHOTO

    Serena Williams AFP PHOTO

    STANFORD, California: Top-ranked Serena Williams gave her U.S. Open prospects a boost by shaking off a sluggish start to defeat No. 8 Angelique Kerber of Germany 7-6 (7-1), 6-3 for her third Bank of the West Classic title on Sunday (Monday in Manila).

    Williams, who captured Stanford titles in 2011-12, improved her unbeaten run at the tournament to 13-0 three weeks before she is set to defend her title at the U.S. Open, which begins August 25.

    Williams came back from a 1-5 first-set deficit—saving two set points at 2-5—before seizing control of the match and closing out Kerber in 1 hour and 19 minutes.

    “It wasn’t easy,” said Williams in an on-court interview. “I blinked my eye and I was down 1-5. Angelique was playing so well.”

    “Serena had the better answer at the end,” said third-seeded Kerber, who fell to 1-5 versus Serena.

    The 32-year-old American put to rest some of the lingering questions about her health and state-of-mind following her withdrawal from a doubles match at Wimbledon with sister Venus last month where she appeared confused and clumsy while trying to play though a viral infection.

    Serena now leads the WTA with four titles, following wins at Brisbane, Miami and Rome, but she has failed to find her best form for much of the year, especially on the sport’s grandest stages.

    She lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open, the second round at Roland Garros and the third round at Wimbledon

    “Moving in the right direction is the best way to put it,” the 17-time major winner said of her play on Sunday. “Still there is a lot of room for improvement,” she added.

    Serena, who hit 37 winners to 28 unforced errors and won 80 percent of her first serve points against Kerber, had not won more than two consecutive matches since mid May, when she won on clay at Madrid. But she is 4-0 in finals this year.

    She has maintained her grip on the No. 1, which will extend to a career-high 76 consecutive weeks and 200 weeks overall when Monday’s rankings are released. Only Steffi Graf (377), Martina Navratilova (332), Chris Evert (260) and Martina Hingis (209) have held the top ranking longer.

    MCT

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