Stanford: July 24 - 30

June 26, 2006 05:49 PM

Clijsters beats Williams for Bank of the West title

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ Kim Clijsters broke serve six times and took advantage of Venus Williams' erratic game to beat the Wimbledon champion 7-5, 6-2 for the Bank of the West Classic title Sunday.

The fourth-seeded Clijsters defeated Williams for only the third time in nine meetings and ended a three-match losing streak to the 25-year-old American, earning her third championship in this event and fourth tournament victory of the season.

"It's great to get this win here,'' said Clijsters, who has a 24-match winning streak in the United States dating to November. "Hopefully I can keep it up.''

Clijsters, who also won here in 2001 and 2003, will move up four spots to 10th when Monday's rankings are released, her first time in the top 10 since October.

The second-seeded Williams lost in her 500th career match, which she played in the same tournament where she made her debut in 1994 when the event was held in Oakland.

With several Belgian flags and supporters from her home country in the stands, Clijsters hit a crosscourt forehand winner off Williams' second serve on match point. She raised her arms in triumph and tossed her wristbands into the stands moments later. During the awards ceremony, Clijsters said a few words in Dutch for those fans.

After Clijsters broke for a 4-2 first-set lead, Williams fought back to tie it 4-all, then broke for a 5-4 lead. Clijsters immediately broke back, winning the final three games of the set.

Williams finished with 43 unforced errors, compared to just 18 for Clijsters.

Williams, who will move up two spots to eighth in the world, reached the final in her first tournament since beating Lindsay Davenport in 2 hours, 45 minutes in the longest Wimbledon women's final four weeks ago.

Davenport beat Williams in the final at Stanford last year, but Davenport retired in her opening match Thursday with a strained lower back and also withdrew from this coming week's event in San Diego.

Clijsters has been pleased with her game recently and is as fit and healthy as she's been in some time.

"My knee's history, my wrist is history and the hip is good,'' she said.

She hadn't dropped a set heading into the final and had spent 3 hours, 23 minutes on the court compared to 4:37 for Williams, who rallied from a set down to beat Patty Schnyder in the semifinals Saturday.

Williams was exhausted, but promised afterward she would find something in the tank for the final. She played her semifinal during the heat of the day, while Clijsters quickly won the late semifinal match over Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-4, 6-0.

Williams had little time to practice since leaving the All England Club, making 11 flights for appearances around the country and the launch of a reality TV show with sister Serena.

"I was definitely on my last leg,'' Williams said. ``I just didn't have it today. I felt like I tried, but I didn't have the energy.''

Williams had won six of the first eight meetings with Clijsters, with one of the losses coming when she retired with an injury in the first set at the 2002 Tour Championships. Clijsters last beat Williams in three sets at Hamburg in 2002.

They last played on carpet in Antwerp, Belgium in February, with Williams winning 6-2, 6-3.