(Reuters) - Angelique Kerber of Germany beat Karolina Pliskova in a tight three-set battle in the finals of the Bank of the West Classic on Sunday to match Serena Williams for most tournament titles this season.
Kerber closed out the up-and-coming Czech player by claiming the last two games of an entertaining two-hour, seven-minute contest for a 6-3 5-7 6-4 victory in Stanford, California.
It was Kerber’s fourth victory of the year, tying Williams, who defeated the German in the Stanford final last year.
Williams’s total, of course, includes the first three grand slam events of the season with a shot at a calendar-year Grand Slam sweep at the upcoming U.S. Open championships.
In another women’s final in the hardcourt run-up to the U.S. Open, American Sloane Stephens won her first career WTA title with a 6-1 6-2 victory over Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
Sloane, ranked 35th in the world, was the only player in the top-40 who had not reached a WTA final in her career. But that changed when she upset the tournament’s second seed Samantha Stosur of Australia on Saturday.
Kerber, meanwhile, added another chapter to a friendly rivalry with Pliskova, who was gunning for her first premier-level WTA tournament win after three previous losses in finals.
“We always have tough battles when we play each other,” the 27-year-old Kerber said about Pliskova. “And actually I think we’ll have more finals against each other in the future.”
Pliskova belted an impressive 52 winners but that total was matched by 52 unforced errors.
One last forehand error from fourth seed Pliskova ended the match.
“I would first of all like to congratulate Angie,” Pliskova, who had her right ankle taped late in the second set, told the crowd in her on-court speech. “She’s a really great player.
“I actually just told her that I don’t want to play her anymore in finals - she’s 2-0 against me in finals now, so hopefully the next time I can play against somebody else!”
Despite her runner-up finish, the 23-year-old Pliskova will move into the top-10 of the world rankings for the first time in her career.
Reporting by Tim Wharnsby in Toronto; Editing by Larry Fine