Saturday April 7th, 2012

Serena Williams won the first eight points over Samantha Stosur. (CSM /Landov)

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Serena Williams had no problems admitting that she was "in the zone" during her 6-1, 6-1, drubbing of Samantha Stosur in the semifinals of the Family Circle Cup on Saturday. That was a surprising admission from Williams, who's had a history of being ludicrously hard on herself. I'm not sure I've ever heard her give herself anything higher than a B-minus, even when beating former No. 1s and Grand Slam champions. So it speaks volumes about how well she played against Stosur that she chalked it up as one of the best performances of her long and storied career.

"I have to say this is probably the best match I've played in my career either in a long time or it's up there in the top five," she said. "I think I didn't make a lot of mistakes. I had my unforced errors pretty low. I was really relaxed, and I love that I'm playing some great tennis in my career at this point."

Said Stosur: "Obviously, she was way too good. I mean, what can you do? It wasn't bad luck. She just beat me fair and square. I tried standing back, standing in, but didn't really seem to matter what I did. She came out with the goods every time."

It's quite possible that this is the best anyone has seen Williams play on clay since 2002, when she won her first and only French Open. Stosur's historically effective kick serve turned into easy batting practice for Williams, who backed up her aggressive returns with some incredible shot-making from the baseline. She credited her improvement to moving and sliding better on the clay than she has in the past.

"It feels good," said Williams, who will face Lucie Safarova in Sunday's final. "I've been working really hard, and I struggled in the beginning of the year to get to this point. Being able to play a little better and everything working today was pretty positive for me. I want to keep it up. Obviously, this is just the beginning of the clay-court season. I'm trying to play like this at the end of clay-court season."

Williams hasn't made it past the quarterfinals of the French Open since 2003, and though she spent the week here professing that clay is her "favorite" surface,  it's still her weakest by far. Charleston's green clay plays fast and Williams acknowledged that the red clay in Paris plays much slower. Being able to move well on green clay isn't surprising; as Venus Williams observed earlier in the week, "This isn't a sliding court." But these are confidence-growing wins for Serena, who said she's even considering playing Stuttgart in advance of Rome and Madrid.

So confident is Serena that she's even willing to take on a rematch against Andy Roddick, whom she likes to remind everyone she beat when they were kids.

"Just one of those days that I could have done anything today against anybody. Maybe I could have played Andy again today and beat him," Serena said, laughing. "So, danger. I'm definitely ready for him now. Today. Just today."

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