- The Top 20 players in the world were all at the Rogers Cup, but it was a No.80-ranked Serena Williams who would hold up the trophy at the end, beating Victoria Azarenka and Samantha Stosur in the last two rounds for the second WTA title of her comeback and the 39th of her career.
After a year-long absence due to injury and illness, Williams came back to the game during the grass season, and in her third tournament back at Stanford two weeks ago she lifted her first WTA title back; she showed some rust mid-week in Toronto, losing the first set to both Zheng Jie and Lucie Safarova in the third round and quarterfinals, but as the going got tougher, so did she.
With the overwhelming power and pintpoint accuracy she and sister Venus have become known for over the last decade and a half, Serena Williams outdid the No.4-seeded Azarenka in style Saturday night, closing out a 63 63 win with a huge crosscourt forehand winner, and on Sunday afternoon she got past the No.10-seeded Stosur, who had been on target throughout the week, 64 62.
The ninth game of the first set was the turning point in the final. With Stosur serving at 4-all, Williams fired a huge backhand down the line winner to get to break point, then put away a forehand volley to break for 5-4. Williams served the set out at 15 and raced out to a 5-1 lead in the second set, eventually serving the match out two games later - hitting four aces in that game alone.
"I'm so excited. I never expected to do this well," Williams said in her on-court interview when asked about her success coming so soon after coming back to the WTA. "I'm just so happy to be playing again, let alone winning. It's cool."
"For me to be able to win, I had to play close to my best tennis. I wasn't quite at that mark," Stosur said in her press conference. "At 4-all I had 40-15 up on serve. You never want to lose serve, but especially being up in the game and holding quite comfortably until that point, it's very disappointing to lose that.
"I stepped up to the line every single time and tried to win every single point, but once an opponent gets a certain lead, sometimes it really boosts them."
This was Williams' second Rogers Cup title, the first coming all of 10 years ago in 2001, when she beat Jennifer Capriati in the final. Back then the trophy was different. "I've always wanted to hold up this particular trophy. It's so cute."
Williams now has 39 WTA titles to her name, third among active players after Venus Williams (43) and Kim Clijsters (41). The 29-year-old will be ranked somewhere between No.31 and No.35 on Monday's new rankings.
Stosur fell to 2-9 in WTA finals, but her week was very encouraging - having fallen down to No.11 this week, her first time out of the Top 10 since April 2010, she will now return to No.10. She upset No.6 seed Li Na en route to the final.
"This is a big boost from how I was feeling after Stanford," Stosur said. "I'm playing well and moving well and feeling good to be out there. I can go to Cincinnati now and try to do this all over again. Then I've got a week off.
"It would be awesome to keep this going for another one."
Photo: Camerawork USA