CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Fifth seed Serena Williams, seeking her third WTA title of the year, reached the Family Circle Cup final by beating French teenager Alize Cornet 7-5 6-3 on Saturday.
After recovering from a sluggish start, the powerful American broke 18-year-old Cornet in the eighth game of the second set before holding serve to wrap up victory in one hour 24 minutes.
The 26-year-old Williams next faces ninth seed Vera Zvonareva who upset fellow Russian Elena Dementieva, the fourth seed, 6-3 6-7 6-3 in a wildly fluctuating semi-final.
World number nine Williams, who has won titles in Bangalore and Miami this year, blasted five aces against her unseeded opponent and converted five of nine break point opportunities.
However, she was frustrated to trail 1-4 in the opening set before mounting her comeback.
“I definitely think I need to get out to a much faster start (in the final),” Williams told reporters.
“I’m playing a tough player. Every day, I’ve been playing a tough player but it’s the finals and everyone wants to win so I’m definitely going to have to start a little faster.”
Cornet, ranked 40th in the world, had upset 16th-seeded Dutchwoman Michaella Krajicek and 10th seed Agnes Szavay of Hungary in reaching the last four for the second straight week.
The French teenager reached the semi-finals on the green clay of Amelia Island last week before losing to Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova.
World number 17 Zvonareva comfortably won the first set and fought back from 0-3 and 2-4 in the second before clawing back to lead 6-5 to serve for the match.
Down 0-40, she fought back to 40-40 before Dementieva broke after clinching the sixth game point.
Although Dementieva swept through the tiebreak 7-2 and again broke early in the third, Zvonareva regained control to wrap up victory in just under two-and-a-half hours.
“It was a very good clay court week for me and even today I had a good match,” world number eight Dementieva said after losing to Zvonareva for the first time in three meetings.
“But Vera is really playing well. She’s in great shape.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez and Greg Stutchbury