Firing 13 aces at speeds up to 113 mph, Venus Williams overpowered Monica Seles 6–2, 6–3 yesterday to win the Acura Classic for the second straight year.
Williams extended her domination of Seles to 6–0 in their first meeting since Williams won their semifinal in the Sydney Olympics en route to the gold medal. She beat Seles in three sets last year at La Costa Resort.
Williams served four love games, including one she closed out with aces of 182 and 179 kph (113 and 111 mph) to take a 5–2 lead in the second set. Williams showed she can change speeds, too. She set up match point with a 132 kph (82 mph) ace down the middle, then won with a 142 kph (88 mph) ace.
"When she starts going for it, it's really difficult to stay with her because the points go really quick," Seles said.
Seles actually served a higher percentage (59 percent to 54 percent), but Williams hit 37 winners and won 88 percent of the points on her first serve.
Still, Williams, the Wimbledon champion, sees improvements she needs to make heading into the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 27.
"I want to improve my first–serve percentage. I can move a lot better," she said. "Other than that, I'm playing well. I'm playing the important points well."
Seles held three break points on double faults by Williams in the opening game, but Williams got out of trouble with a 179 kph (111 mph) ace and then held when Seles' service return went wide. Seles broke Williams once.
"She aced me and when she does that at those speeds there's not much you can do," Seles said. "Everybody is beatable, but you have to have the same weapons she does, like a big first serve. She had a very tough combination – she has power behind her and her movement is great."
Seles tried jerking Williams from side–to–side in the backcourt, but the 1.86–meter (6–foot–1) Williams stretched her long arms and legs to return several balls that seemed out of reach.
Playing just her second tournament since May, Seles reached the final by upsetting the top two players in the world. She beat No. 2 Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals, then No. 1 Martina Hingis in the semis.
She missed most of the year with a stress fracture in her right foot that kept her out of the French Open and Wimbledon.
"It feels great to finally some tough matches, but I still need to add a few weapons to my game," Seles said. "I'm playing better, but my serve hasn't been good. It went a little haywire and I couldn't hold."
Williams had her own cheering section in tow – father Richard and three sisters, including Serena – but Seles was a crowd favorite this week.
"They seemed to like Monica more because they even cheered some double faults quite rigorously," she said.
Despite the victory, Williams will drop a spot to No. 4 in the world when the WTA Tour rankings are released Monday. Lindsay Davenport, who lost to Williams in the semifinals, moves from fourth to third. Hingis will stay on top for her 201st week – the fourth–longest at No. 1 since the rankings began in 1975.
"Sure, I want to be No. 1, but I want to win Grand Slams first. That's a top priority," said Williams, who improved to 35–5 this year with her fourth title.
"It's so hard to keep my ranking," said Williams, who has played just 10 tournaments this year and will play only one more before the U.S. Open. "I'm not too worried. I'd just like to take the titles."
Williams earned $125,000 and a car.
Results from the $750,000 Acura Classic WTA hard–court tournament played at The La Costa Resort and Spa (seedings in parentheses):
(2) Venus Williams (US) def. (7) Monica Seles (US) 6–2, 6–3.
(2) Cara Black (Zim) and Elena Likhovtseva (Rus) def. (1) Martina Hingis (Swi) and Anna Kournikova (Rus) 6–4, 1–6, 6–4.Reuse content