Serena reaches first final of 2011
STANFORD, CALIF. (AP)
Serena Williams, who needed nearly a year to recover from surgery, is putting her best foot forward again and playing like a champion.
Williams moved into the final of the Bank of the West Classic with an impressive 6-1, 6-2 victory over Germany's Sabine Lisicki on Saturday night.
It's her first appearance in a final since winning the title at Wimbledon last year and her first final on American soil since losing to Victoria Azarenka in Miami in March of 2009.
The unseeded and 169th-ranked Williams will meet third-seeded and ninth-ranked Marion Bartoli of France, who advanced when Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova withdrew from the other semifinal because of a strained abdominal muscle.
Cibulkova said the injury has been bothering her all week.
''It was painful when I played Marina (Erakovic), but I was able to get through that match,'' she said. ''I thought it would be better in the morning, but I saw a doctor and he recommended not playing since the injury could worsen.''
Cibulkova had the same problem earlier in the year, missing two tournaments after getting through the quarterfinal at Madrid.
''Maybe I rushed to play too quick,'' she said. ''I don't want to make the same mistake.''
Cibulkova still plans to travel to San Diego, where she is scheduled to play Wednesday.
''It's still open and I'm hoping to be ready,'' she said. ''I still have things to do in San Diego.''
Cibulkova, playing in her 100th career WTA main draw, is projected to rise from No. 19 to No. 16 in the WTA rankings by reaching the semifinal. She beat qualifier Marina Erakovic 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
''It was a great tournament for me,'' Cibulkova said. ''I was looking forward to maybe winning my first tournament. I was so full of confidence.''
The ninth-ranked Bartoli reached her fourth final of the year and her third final at Stanford. She won the title in 2009. Bartoli reached the semis when Japan's Ayumi Morita withdrew with an injury after the first set Friday night.
''This has never happened to me but there's not much I can do about it,'' Bartoli said. ''It's a shame Dominika had to be put out. It will be an extremely tough match tomorrow and I need to get ready.''