Saturday, April 05, 2008

Queen of Miami



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.




18 comments:

b said...

Needless to say I'm really upset by jelena's comments - noticed some magazines trimmed what she really said, which was even worse.....

"Jelena Jankovic revealed one of the reasons she was smiling during a three-set loss to Serena Williams in the Sony Ericsson Open final Saturday.

Jankovic said she noticed celebrities in the crowd including actor Woody Harrelson from the movie White Men Can’t Jump.

“It was funny . . . I was feeling when I was playing that match, I thought, White Girls Can’t Play, you know,” Jankovic said. “I felt like that at a certain point when I was playing against Serena. I was just like, ‘There’s no way I can play with this girl. She’s just too strong for me.’ But, you know, I could have done it, but she was just, you know, too good at the end.”"

Okay so the only reason serena won was because she's big and black..... absolutely nothing to do with her great court sense, conditioning and smart play.... oh no - ironically serena really isn't that much bigger than jelena..... who is hardly the "feather" she claims to be.... she's quite full figured herself

if kuznetsova or sharapova had beat her would it also be because they are bigger?

anyway overjpyed to finally see serena overcome her nerves and win

Craig Hickman said...

Wow, b. Wow.

Karen said...

b I have been trying to find post match comments etc and cannot find anything. I have said it here and I will say it again, I really do not like Jelena Jankovic. She is unprofessional and she really needs to learn how to behave with a sense of decorum on court. That being said, that picture of Serena in the striped top would make a straight girl go gay - girl has some rocking bosoms - LOL - as to the match, Serena did what she had to do and kudos to her for pulling out a win while her game tried to snatch defeat - congrats to her - that is what champions do play when your game decides to go on hiatus during a match. Like you said Craig, chasing history is the hardest thing to do. She called Miami, the Serena/Steffi Open = who knows they may just name it after both of those ladies

Savannah said...

The complete interview is here:

http://www.sonyericssonopen.com/content/20080405172732.html

b said...

savannah - thanks for posting the interview

i really used to like jankovic but now she has really blown it with me and the media is just goading her on - the comments she made were so disgusting..... and i can't believe they were going on about serena's screaming when sharapova has nothing at hear - miss shriek at every point....

and the strength comments are ridiculous - she outweighs henin by far more than serena outweighs her (which, i'm guessing is in the 10-20lb range) and henin i undoubtedly stronger than most of the women on the tour.... it's an issue of what work you will put in....

and she's downright lying about defaulting.... she was such a brat in the YEC and did not finish her game (against bartoli?) supposedly a cold.... i was watching that one and was SOOO annoyed w- her attitude for the whole tournament....

here a more choice tidbits:
"But she was very strong, especially in the first set, you know. When she's playing her best tennis, when she's serving well, it's just tough to match up against her. Even though I work hard physically, I can never in my life be as strong as her."

And why isn't this making excuses - if this was serena after a loss everyone would be saying how "classless" she is?

"Q. What does it feel like when Serena, when she's coming and she's going to do one of those overheads and she starts growling?
JELENA JANKOVIC: Oh, my God. (laughter.)
It feels like, I would say, Oh, my God. Just hit a winner, but away from me. I don't want to see that ball near my body or anywhere else. It's just ‑‑ and after, when she, you know ‑‑ okay, she hits a winner, but then she screams so loud. She says, Come on.
It's just ‑‑ it's like the whole image, you know. I try not to look at her. I just try to focus on myself."

Q. She screamed a little, but didn't you feel that she was overall much calmer than she usually is?
JELENA JANKOVIC: I don't know how she normally is, because...

Q. She's usually screaming all the time.
JELENA JANKOVIC: (laughter.) Oh, my God. I'm glad she was calmer and she didn't scream too much. I don't know what I can say about that. It's not mine to ‑‑ you can ask her, Serena, why didn't you scream as much as you normally do? What was the reason for that?

I'm so happy for Serena - at the same time.... why can't black women get any recognition without being cut down.... there's nothing there about how smart she played, or her strategy...... I'm sorry I'm so upset.... It's just all so offesive.... There is one major pure power and strength player in the top 10 and that's shriekapova.... her (mindless)game relies on strength, power and intimidation.... but never gets labeled that way..... and when her game is on and her opponent is not it works quite well....

I think, despite what she claims, it's clear that all the relentless nastiness of the press has really affected Serena..... I'm very proud of her for pulling it through anyway...

rabbit said...

I completely agree. The interview is classless and absolutely rude. I just don't understand why the press is not taking this up. It's not as if it was just one sentence in a paragraph of compliments...

Helen W said...

Not only is the press not calling her on it, they are actually encouraging her. Shameful.

quark9326 said...

Craig, did you not watch the Kolya-Ancic match or the Kolya-Roddick match? He volleyed brilliantly in the 2nd and 3rd sets of the Ancic match and in the Roddick match he was practically serving bombs.

MMT said...

I think this is much ado about nothing, to be frank. Serena is loud on court - that others are as well (namely Sharapova) has no bearing on Serena's volume. And if Jankovic is intimidated by the whole package (the power, strength, steely looks, and the grunting) then that's her problem.

Yes her comment about "White Girls Can't Play" was out of order, but I think you can put this down to a different sensibility about race and a poorly construed, but non-malicious joke. A weak attempt to incorporate an actor and his movie in comments about her match. Big deal.

And I don't think it's racial to point out the obvious; that Serena may be the strongest and most powerful woman on tour. Combine this with her race, and any comments in that area can be construed as racist, but that's a a leap in my opinion.

Consider that nobody talks about strategy and tactics with Mauresmo or Sharapova either - basically because they don't display much of any, nor does Serena. Fair enough she was approaching the net more frequently than usual (a point Gimelstob, a much maligned commentator observed often in her match with Henin) but I don't think it would be honest commentary if we ascribed her victory to great strategy and tactics. Frankly she gave away a few more points at net (particularly as she struggled to close out the match in the 3rd) than it appeared to help her.

Helen W said...

oddman! I've been metaphorically holding your hand since Sunday. Please drop by :)

oddman said...

Aren't you sweet, helen w! I was away, so didn't see the drubbings of both Andy and Rafa. Good thing too, I heard about it, and had plenty of time to rid myself of the disappointment I'd been feeling. Time does heal some wounds, in my case. I'll wait a while before watching the semi or the final that I taped. Hah! I console myself with these good things: Andy finally got a win against Fed, and Rafa himself, altho not happy about how he played in the final, is pleased with his HC play overall, gained more points than his goal, and is going into the clay season with the confidence, no?
Kudos to Davydenko for winning the whole event. And big congrats to Serena too, for fighting through her nerves to win again.

Craig Hickman said...

No matter how you slice it, Jelena's remarks are racially charged. I'm not calling her a racist, but I'm calling her remarks racially charged.

She knows it. You know it. I know it. And yes, the interviewers encouraged them.

It is what it is. And I have no problem calling it as such.

Race will always be a difficult issue to discuss.

oddman said...

From the little I read about this, I'd definitely agree with you, Craig. Especially about how the press questions were phrased too.

I have no patience at all for JJ's histrionics. Blechh.

Helen W said...

oddman, you will be happy to know that in comparation with the rest of the ATP players, Rafa has more hard court points this year than any of them.

Watching Serena's match against JJ was one of the most harrowing experiences I can recall while watching sports.

oddman said...

Really, helen? That one-dimensional dirtballer? How did that happen? (chuckle)

BeefingFraeulein said...

I think (Weird) Jelena Jankovic was trying to be funny in her second language. Did she succeed? -- IMO: no. I consider it more of a tacky blunder than a racial one.

As this is an American blog (and we obsess with that issue of skin color here) I must add this disclaimer : I am "black" -- whatever that means, lol....

The uproar here vaguely reminds me of when some in the press wanted to crucify Roger Federer for not knowing who Althea Gibson is/was. That's our (American) problem but we expect everyone to understand our schizoid relationship to skin color...

MMT said...

BeefingFraeulein has made a good point. I honestly don't think Jankovic intended anything racial by her comments EVEN THOUGH she referred to Serena's race.

The press didn't say anything about Serena's race - Jankovic did, and it was only in reference to a response about seeing Woody Harrelson. Then she tried to make a silly joke about it.

And the fact is Jankovic may be intimidated by Serena, in part because she's black, but in part because she's probably the strongest woman on tour. I'm sure she wouldn't be making such comments about Chanda Rubin (if she were still playing for example)

Not every comment, including ones that involve references to a person's race are racially motivated. And if they are viewed as racially charged, that may be down as much to the observer's perspective on race and sports as the intent of the commentator.

Part of moving forward racially is for people to be free to speak openly about subjects without the self-censorship that comes from "unspoken" racial undertones that we impose on a topic.

Craig Hickman said...

Moving forward racially means calling a spade a spade.

JJ's comments were racially charged. Period.

Doesn't mean she's racist. That's not the point.

Doesn't mean they were even wrong. But SHE has to understand what she said.

That's what has to happen in order for the discussion to be real.

No excuses. Just truth.