Serena Williams wins her 61st career title in California on Sunday
American triumphs at Bank of the West Classic for third time
She is fifth women's player to be ranked No. 1 for 200 weeks or more
Williams will defend her Rogers Cup title in Montreal this week
After the highs of 2013, it hasn’t been a great year for Serena Williams.
However, the American tennis star says she is “on the right track” after getting back to winning ways at Stanford on Sunday.
She won the Bank of the West Classic tournament for the third time, fighting back from a horror start to defeat German world No. 7 Angelique Kerber 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 in the final in California.
It not only gave Williams a WTA Tour-leading fourth title this season, but helped her become just the fifth player to be ranked No. 1 for 200 weeks or more since the women’s standings began in 1975.
Having failed to make it past the first week at Wimbledon and the French Open, and losing in the last 16 at the season’s opening grand slam in Melbourne, the 32-year-old is now seeking to resurrect her season by retaining her U.S. Open title next month.
“It would definitely make it better, but it wouldn’t make it go away,” she said when asked if success in New York would make up for her disappointing year so far.
“I feel like I’m on the right track again. I feel like I can play even better – I wasn’t serving my best, and I wasn’t making as many winners off the return as I wanted to, but I think I’m getting there.”
Stanford was her first tournament since a bizarre performance during a doubles match at Wimbledon, which she later explained as being due to a viral illness.
Williams, who started her sixth spell at No. 1 in February 2013, trailed 5-1 in the opening set against Kerber, who she had beaten in all but one of their previous five meetings.
“I was just thinking I had to take it one point at a time,” Williams said. “I knew I just had to relax and not be so crazy.
“Up until that point I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, and what I had been doing in practice, so I knew I just had to start doing the right things going forward.”
Williams now has 61 career titles, 39 behind third-ranked Steffi Graf on the all-time list.
However, she is only five grand slams behind the German’s record of 22 and Graf said she wouldn’t bet against Williams closing on that milestone.
“While I don’t have a crystal ball, living in Las Vegas I’ve come to appreciate odds,” the 45-year-old told the WTA Tour website when asked about Williams’ chances of extending her tally.
“My answer would be yes.”
Graf holds the record of 377 weeks at No. 1 – more than any player, male or female – and paid tribute to Williams’ achievement in passing the 200 mark.
“Being at your best all the time in a year-round sport is all-consuming,” Graf said.
“Add to it being the best as you set the bar makes it more exhausting – physically, mentally and emotionally.
“Keeping that up for almost four years is remarkable.”
The tour now heads to Canada for the Rogers Cup in Montreal, where defending champion Williams faces a potential quarterfinal against rising star Eugenie Bouchard.
Kerber is in the same quarter of the draw as Maria Sharapova, who she beat at Wimbledon, while the strong field also includes that tournament’s champion Petra Kvitova and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.