CARLSBAD, California (AFP): While Stanford champ Serena Williams shifts her focus to the London Olympics, runner-up Coco Vandeweghe is poised to continue her breakthrough season at this week’s WTA Carlsbad event.
Williams, who earlier this month won her fifth Wimbledon crown, beat the 20-year-old Vandeweghe 7-5, 6-3 Sunday for her second straight WTA Tour title at the Stanford tournament.
The world number four is not in competition this week after winning Stanford and will soon head to Britain for the Summer Games, which open a week from Friday.
“(A gold medal) would mean a lot to me, but I can’t put all my hopes and dreams on just that,” said the 30-year-old Williams, who has twice lifted Olympic doubles gold with her elder sister Venus.
“But it would mean a lot and I’d like to try to get one,” said the winner of 28 of her last 29 matches and holder of four 2012 titles.
Vandeweghe, who rebounded from a lucky loser start at Stanford to make the first title bid of her career, opens this week in the first round at the La Costa resort in Carlsbad against South African sixth seed Chanelle Scheepers.
The blonde right-handed Californian rose from a ranking of 120th to 69th as a result of her hardcourt run. She credits a serve improved under the tutelage of former ATP player Jan-Michael Gambill with lifting her game.
“It has been coming in clutch,” she said of her new, improved delivery. “I’ve worked hard on my serve, it’s a big weapon for me. I’ve been making a lot of first serves and I can put pressure on an opponent by serving consistently well. I’m hitting my spots and doing very well.”
The young American said that her work with Gambill had resulted in a new emphasis on fitness, which was key in allowing her to hang in against the huge Williams attack. “Fitness is part of tennis and I’ve improved in that department. I’m moving quicker, getting to a lot more balls. I’ve been able to hit big shots on the run to stay in some points,” Vandeweghe said.
The Carlsbad field is headed by France’s Marion Bartoli, with Slovak Dominika Cibulkova the second seed and former world number one Jelena Jankovic seeded third.
Russian Nadia Petrova is seeded fourth. US Olympian Christina McHale is also in Carlsbad, tuning up for London by playing one final event.In opening-day results Monday, Alexa Glatch won an all-American clash over Lauren Davis 6-3, 6-2, with Glatch hammering 10 aces in a match that lasted only 75 minutes.
“It’s tough to play another American girl, she’s a good player, an up-and-comer,” said the 22-year-old Glatch, who next faces Petrova. “I’m just happy to get the win and move on to the next round.”
Japan’s Misaki Doi profited from a meltdown by Michelle Larcher de Brito. The Portuguese player smashed a racquet after losing 6-7 (6/8), 6-1, 6-3.