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Angelique Kerber of Germany holds off hard-hitting Karolina Pliskova in 3 sets at Stanford

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STANFORD, California — Angelique Kerber pushed away any post-match fatigue or tired legs and relished yet another championship.

Kerber bent her knees nearly to the ground all afternoon to dig out an onslaught of powerful ground strokes by Karolina Pliskova, beating the hard-hitting Czech 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 for the Bank of the West Classic championship Sunday.

The left-handed Kerber extended points with her baseline gets on the way to a title in the event she lost at Stanford a year ago against Serena Williams.

"It's hard work to get really fit but at the end it takes over on court," Kerber said of her top fitness that helps her recovery in a hurry.

The fifth-seeded Kerber, from Germany, improved to 4-0 in finals this year, which included edging Pliskova 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (4) in a nearly 2 1/2-hour match for the championship on grass at Birmingham, England, in June, for her first title on that surface.

This slugfest went 2 hours, 7 minutes.

Kerber let out a scream and raised her arms in delight when Pliskova's forehand went into the net on the second match point, completing the 10th break of serve by the German. She earns $124,000 for her victory.

"She's just great moving and a great defender, so it was maybe harder than in the last matches for me," Pliskova said. "That's why I made maybe more mistakes. She's always tough to play. She's one of the fittest girls on the tour."

The 6-foot-1 Pliskova, seeded fourth, hit booming first serves from 112-115 mph in the first set but needed an injury timeout to have her right ankle taped late in the second before she held for 7-5 after seven straight breaks and force a third set.

Pliskova found some better consistency when it mattered most, breaking for 3-2 in the final set. The 23-year-old — whose twin sister Kristyna plays on the tour — had missed chances throughout the match to that point, such as jumping out to 40-0 to start the match before losing the opening, 16-point game.

She had chances to close out points at the net but Kerber's pinpoint passing shots regularly caught Pliskova in no man's land about a step further back from the net than she needed to be. Pliskova committed 21 unforced errors in the first set to put herself in a hole, to just one by the steady Kerber.

PHOTO: Angelique Kerber, from Germany, returns the ball to Karolina Pliskova, from Czech Republic, during the championship match in the Bank of the West Classic tennis tournament in Stanford, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. Kerber won 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Angelique Kerber, from Germany, returns the ball to Karolina Pliskova, from Czech Republic, during the championship match in the Bank of the West Classic tennis tournament in Stanford, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. Kerber won 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Pliskova takes home $66,100 as runner-up. She finished with 52 unforced errors and 52 winners, while the 27-year-old Kerber had 14 unforced errors in all.

This was hardly a pretty display of serving with double faults to end games in match featuring 18 total breaks of serve.

"That's probably for me the worst thing," Pliskova said. "It's my best shot. I think that's the point why I lost today."

Kerber captured her seventh career singles title playing in her fourth final of the season. She lost here last year at Stanford to Williams, 7-6 (1), 6-3. The world No. 1 Williams withdrew from this event the week before because of an elbow injury.

Kerber learned plenty from a first-set collapse here a year ago. She won five straight games to go up 5-1 and was serving for the first set at 5-2 before Williams saved two set points and went to win five games in a row.

"Of course it was big motivation for me to win the title here where I lost last year against Serena," Kerber said.

Kerber, projected to move up the rankings from 14th to No. 11, earned her 40th match victory to tie her with Williams (40-1) for most wins this season.

Pliskova is set to make her debut in the WTA top-10 rankings in the next poll at eighth.

"I proved that I belong there," she said.

Top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki dropped a 6-4, 6-2 result in her opening match, in the second round, Thursday night to American Varvara Lepchenko. Pliskova defeated Lepchenko in a straight-set semifinal win Saturday.

Pliskova was the first Czech-born woman to reach the final in this event since Martina Navratilova in 1994. Navratilova lost to Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario that year in Oakland, but won the last of her five titles of the tournament in '03.

Yi-Fan Xu and Saisai Zheng of China won the doubles final, 6-1, 6-3 over Anabel Medina Garrigues and Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain as Sunday's matches drew a tournament high for the week of 2,757 fans.

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PHOTO: Angelique Kerber, from Germany, returns the ball to Karolina Pliskova, from Czech Republic, during the championship match in the Bank of the West Classic tennis tournament in Stanford, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. Kerber won 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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