She did it. For the first time since 2004, Serena Williams defended a title. With her fifth Sony Ericsson Championship, Serena ties Steffi Graf in all-time wins in Miami by a WTA player. Graf's husband, Andre Agassi, holds the all-time record with six championships.
It wasn't easy. Or it was. That would depend which part of the match you watched. Jelena Jankovic had no answers for Serena in the first half of the twisted affair. I've said it before and I mean it again, when Serena's return of serve is in peak position, she can break you at will and break your will on serve. In just over half an hour, Jelena found herself down 1-6 and two breaks at 0-3.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to victory. Serena was overcome by an anxiety that blew in like the southern Florida wind. She gifted away one of those breaks and struggled on serve the rest of the set. The woman who stepped up to serve for the match at 5-4 was not the same one who appeared to be cruising to a crushing victory. This woman lost the last three games of the set.
But Serena rebounded and opened the final set with a break. After which the Vitch full of silly exhibited her silliness. Jelena gets on my last nerve with her injury timeouts and her melodrama when her back is against the wall. I can't breathe, I can't serve, my head is about to explode, I'm coughing, I'm not going to be okay, I can't go on! And then the Vitch full of silly and the painted black fingernails rises from her histrionics and runs around the court like a hyena. She's a grifter. Angelica Huston had nothing on her in the film.
But her opponent was unaffected.
Serena the Great reemerged and ran the grifter around to earn a 5-0 lead. Serena's returns were once again precise, her forehand once again deadly. But the anxious one returned to serve for the championship on her second attempt. She fought off two break points, earned a match point, but couldn't close the deal. She squandered a few more match points on Jelena's serve and the Serbian fans, who had been rowdy all match, went crazy. Serena earned three more match points on her serve at 5-2, 40-0, but five consecutive errors later, she destroyed her racquet before the changeover.
I guess that outburst was all she needed. She broke Jelena at 15 on her seventh match point and let out a shout of defiant relief.
Defending a title isn't easy. The last title she defended was, well, right here in Miami in 2004 when she came back from knee surgery after an 8-month recovery. Matching a Steffi record isn't easy either. I can't imagine Serena's collapses had to do with anything else. Certainly nothing her opponent did. The mind is a terrible thing in a tennis match.
All's well that ends well.