Venus Williams willed herself into the finals of the Bank of the West Classic on Saturday night, beating fellow American Alison Riske, 6-1, 7-6 (2), even as she seemed to be struggling.
Williams faltered near the end of the second set, serving three consecutive double faults to let Riske get back into the game. Williams saved a break point to force the tie-breaker, in which she dominated.
“In the tiebreaker I just wanted to be more aggressive," Williams said. “It was a great second set and I'm happy to come out on top."
Williams will be going for her 50th career WTA victory when she faces off against Great Britain's Johanna Konta at 2 p.m. Sunday.
"I don't want to stop at 50," Williams said. "It would be wonderful and I hope I play well enough to earn it."
Konta earned her spot in the finals with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over the second-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, a former Bank of the West Classic champion.
Konta beat Williams at the Australian Open in January.
“It will be another tough match," Williams said. “She serves well."
The third-seeded Konta reached her first career final on the strength of her serving game. She won 27 of her 29 first serves (93 percent) and 11 of 15 second serves (73 percent).
“I went all right," Konta said. “I felt like I needed to take care of things on my end the best possible way. I was able to stay focused."
Konta, ranked No. 126 at this time last year, beat her fourth Top 20 player. She's currently ranked No. 18.
“I put in the right kind of work," Konta said. “It helps to stay healthy."
The 12th-ranked Cibulkova conceded Konta's serve was difficult, though she was happy overall with reaching the semifinal of her first tournament in the United States.
“She made it strong and her placing was good," Cibulkova said. “I could have done more with her second serve and that's what made the difference. It was hard for me to do something with it. My first week in America, I made the semifinal. I'll take it."
Reaching the semifinal was worth $37,330 and 185 ranking points. Cibulkova missed last year's event and lost in the first round two years ago. She won the tournament in 2013 and also reached the semis in 2011.
Riske felt she had nowhere to go but up after a lop-sided loss in the first set.
"I had trouble keeping the ball on the court," she said. "I knew going into the second set it could only get better."
Riske played at Stanford for the third time and said she was already looking forward to next year.
"It was a great experience and a great week for me," Riske said. "Playing Venus was special."