Venus overpowers Clijsters to win Bank of the West title

Sunday, July 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STANFORD, California (AP) _ There's more to Venus Williams than pure power.

With savvy shotmaking _ and, of course, her booming serve _ Williams defeated Belgian Kim Clijsters 6-3, 6-3 Sunday to win the Bank of the West Classic title.

Williams, the top seed, won her fifth title of the year to maintain her No. 2 ranking behind sister Serena Williams, the Wimbledon champion.

Clijsters, the fourth seed and defending champion, will fall from No. 5 in the world to No. 7 with the loss at Taube Family Tennis Center.

``To be honest, I think she played very well, too,'' Williams said. ``She brought out the best in me.''

Clijsters, with boyfriend and top-ranked men's star Lleyton Hewitt looking on, valiantly tried to keep up with the lanky Williams, who fired off a 112-mph ace to seal the first set.

Williams kept her 19-year-old opponent on the run throughout the 1-hour, 4-minute match with precise shots, compensating for an uncharacteristic 10 double-faults.

``The sun was definitely a factor,'' she said about the bright skies. ``I had to start moving my toss around a bit. And when you have to move your toss around, it gets a little shaky.''

Williams' serve didn't totally leave her, she was still clocked at 119 mph (191 kph) at one point.

But she also elevated the rest of her game. She thwarted Clijsters to start the second set with a perfectly executed tap that just cleared the net.

When Clijsters double-faulted later in the set, she shrugged in frustration. For the next point, Williams blasted her with an unreturnable smash and went up 3-0.

Down 4-0 in the second set, Clijsters wouldn't give in. She finally broke Williams, who was serving for the match to narrow it to 5-3. It was her only break.

``It was good to break her in that match,'' Clijsters said. ``She's got so much power. She hardly made any unforced errors, I think.''

Williams, closely watched by her father Richard and the supportive sellout crowd, came right back to break Clijsters for the victory.

``That's why she was No. 1, when she feels she needs to, she does a little bit extra,'' said Clijsters, who struggled recently with shoulder and upper arm pain.

Williams beat Lisa Raymond in the semifinals to advance in the dlrs 585,000 tournament. Clijsters upset second-seeded Lindsay Davenport, who played in her first tournament in nine months after a knee injury.

Earlier this year, Clijsters beat Williams in the final at Hamburg to even their career series at 1-1. Williams won in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open last year.

Williams, who made her eighth appearance at Stanford, won the title in 2000 with a victory over two-time champion Davenport.

Clijsters, whose lone title this year came at Hamburg, defeated Davenport in the Bank of the West last year.

Serena Williams, who took the No. 1 rank from her older sister with her victory at Wimbledon, did not play in the Northern California event.

In the doubles final Sunday, top-seeded Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs defeated Janette Husarova and Conchita Martinez, 6-1, 6-1.

Raymond and Stubbs advanced to the final when Anna Kournikova had to withdraw from the semifinal with partner Meghann Shaughnessy because of an abdominal strain.