Williams, Bartoli reach Stanford final

STANFORD, Calif. — After needing nearly a year to recover from surgery, Serena Williams is playing like a champion again.

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.

"I feel like a kid again," Williams said. "When I was younger I had the goal of being in the top 100, then qualifying for a Grand Slam without a wild card. I have those goals again."

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.

Bartoli beat Williams in the fourth round at Wimbledon, their last meeting.

"She should be fresh and I will be ready," Williams said. "It's a whole new match and I'm a better player than I was at Wimbledon. This is great progress and I'm excited about my potential as I go forward."

Lisicki played tight in the first set, which fed into Williams' aggressive attack.

"I have never played her before so I did not know what to expect," Lisicki said. "I'm not used to having the ball come back at me so hard. It was a new experience, a learning experience."

Williams was able to stay away from making too many mistakes, enabling her to play a strong ground game.

Farmers Classic

At Los Angeles, Mardy Fish fought from behind in the third set to advance to his second straight final, beating teenager Ryan Harrison 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (3) at the Farmers Classic.

Fish will play for his second straight title today against unseeded Ernests Gulbis of Latvia. Gulbis beat American Alex Bogomolov Jr. 6-2, 7-6 (4) to reach his second career final.

Fish and Harrison were playing a rematch of their semifinal last week in Atlanta, where Fish won his first title of the season.

The top-seeded Fish defeated Harrison in straight sets in Atlanta and picked up where he left off Saturday, breezing through the opening set in 20 minutes. A frustrated Harrison won only six points.

Croatia Open

At Umag, Croatia, Marin Cilic defeated Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the Croatia Open final against Aleksandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine.

The fourth-seeded Cilic dropped serve only once in the match, at the start of the second set, before becoming the first Croat to reach the Umag final since Goran Prpic defeated compatriot Goran Ivanisevic in 1990.

In the other semifinal Saturday, the second-seeded Dolgopolov beat Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 6-4, 6-4.

Citi Open

At College Park, Md., top-seeded Shahar Peer advanced to the finals at the Citi Open by defeating third-seeded Tamira Paszek of Austria 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 in a match that went more than three hours.

In the other semifinal match, second-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia beat American Irina Falconi 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Petrova started slow in the first set after playing past 1 a.m. the night before, but settled down and gained confidence to take a 3-0 lead in the final set after a back-and-forth third game that lasted 15 minutes.

It is the fourth time during the 2011 WTA season that the top two seeds advanced to a finals.

Peer and Petrova have met five previous times with Petrova winning all five times. Petrova will be looking for her 10th career WTA title, while Peer is aiming at her 6th WTA title.

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