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Chinese Handcuffs 04/05/2008 - 6:47 PM

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I can think of lots of reasons to like Jelena Jankovic, including the Flying Ponytail and China Doll make-up, and laser-like, stinging two-handed backhands. But the best reason of all may be her light-hearted appreciation of all things crazy and unpredictable. She takes this placid, often grave game that thrives on nicely executed set pieces and forehand to backhand conversations and turns it into women's mud wrestling in chiffon cocktail dresses.

We had a good example of that today. As we settled into our seats in the shade of press row to watch Jelena play the final of the Sony Ericsson Open against Serena Williams, we were expecting a tough, compelling and basically sensible clash between the best attacker and best defender in the WTA game. What we got was semi-orchestrated insanity hitting dramatic heights usually reserved for pro wrestling.  The match started ugly, turned riveting, and finally radiated pathos before Williams won 6-1,5-7,6-3.

I confess that as a professional tennis watcher, I'm not sure I'm supposed to like this stuff. Praising it seems to be my vocation's equivalent of extolling the virtues of unfiltered Camel cigarettes or deep-fried chicken to impressionable children. But that chicken, it sure tastes good. This match was a hoot, but I find it's often like that when I catch Jelena (in her first round match here, she was 1-5 and five match points down in the third before she stamped her foot and cried, No mas!).

Ah, Jelena. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll throw popcorn at the screen and demand your money back.  We were on the verge of that as Williams jumped out to a 6-1, 3-0 lead, with Jankovic spraying balls so badly that she sometimes doubled over in embarrassment at the baseline. She looked like she was about to hurl. She wasn't the only one.

Jelena It was so bad in the early going that at one point she challenged a call on a ball that had to be four-feet beyond the baseline. But I guess that when your other shots are landing 12 feet back, you've got legitimate cause to hope. But just when it seemed that the match was going to wind up as another of those 6-1, 6-1 bummers that remains the bane of the women's tour, it morphed into something far more palatable - a sometimes fascinating struggle between the hunter (Williams) and the hunted (Jankovic). As is often the case in that scenario, the prey kept slipping out of the grasp of the predator, and the hunt would begin all over again. And again.

Jankovic worked her way back into the second set with admirable grit and her finest tennis, which is an appealing display of aggressive counter-punching with a striking degree of athleticism and an unrivaled arsenal of quality strokes. She plays with a low center of gravity, which shows superb discipline. She seems to scuttle, crab-like, and just because she's gone off your TV screen or out of your peripheral vision doesn't mean the ball she's chasing won't come spinning back, sky-high over the net. Today, at one point she stretched for a shot to her right and ended up doing a perfect split. She's plays like a gymnast.

Although the backhand is Jankovic's more reliable shot, it's a treat to see her powder that forehand, the follow-through wrapping around on a nearly level plane, just below shoulder, in a manner that reminds me of Roger Federer. The momentum of the shot often brings her right foot clear of the ground and curling up behind her. Freeze the pose, add the trailing rope of hair, and you could carve it into a nice wooden figurehead for the SS Serbia.

But Williams sails under the Jolly Roger, cannons bristling starboard and port. Her game plan was to overwhelm Jankovic with firepower, and it bore fruit throughout the match - even in the critical middle portion, when her forehand was frequently misfiring and she was being broken as often as she broke. I'm not going to bother much with "turning points" or any of that other hooey, unless we're talking in multiples of seven. The match featured 32 break points (22 for Serena, who converted just eight of them) and 13 service breaks in 21 games (not counting the tiebreaker).

That's not tennis, folks, it's anarchy, born of Jankovic's unique game: She can break anyone, anytime (even Williams), but because of her so-so serve, she can be broken by anyone. anytime (especially Williams). She turns a match into Chinese handcuffs with one player at each end.

But for all the shifts of momentum and surprising plot twists, there was one riveting and satisfying constant: the struggle between Serena's bold offensive fussillades, and Jankovic's dodging, weaving counter-thrusts. How imposing was Serena?  In Jankovic's presser, I suggested that it was a crazy match and wondered if Jelena herself was laughing about it. She said:

"Where?  During the match?  I had all these actors (Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, sitting in the photo pit) when I was returning. It was just funny. I was thinking that one of the actors was in that movie, if you know, White Men Can't Jump.  I was feeling when I was playing that match, I thought, White Girls Can't Play, you know. . .I felt like that at a certain point 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."

The tense, second stage of the match ended with Jankovic winning set 2, 7-5. The crowd, recaptured, showered the women with a rousing ovation, which Williams took as a cue to go on a five-game run to kick of Part 3. But on this day, every run ended in a trip. Down 0-5, Jankovic reeled off two games. Williams responded by building a 40-love lead. Three wasted match points and a service break later, she smashed her racket on the court and hurled it at her chair. When she was reminded of the moment in her presser she feigned ignorance:

"I smashed a racquet?  Oh, my God.  Really?  You sure it was me? "

Q (amid laughter): Looked like you.

"Oh, my gosh.  Okay.  Well, I guess maybe more than likely my hand must have been really oily and sweaty.  That just doesn't like you said, that's just not me.  God. . ."

But like all good things and train wrecks, this all had to come to an end, and unhappily for one of the combatants. That turned out to be Jankovic. When she was asked about Serena's power, she replied: "(She has) just amazing power. I felt, you know how I felt, to be honest, it's like heavyweight champion and I'm a feather champion, you know?  That's how I felt.  I cannot match up against her. Just too much power for me to handle, especially on a good day where she's playing well. It's amazing. I need to improve some of the things, but I will never be like that."

Jankovic sold herself short with that assessment, but keep in mind that this is a crafty young lady who knows a thing or two about sandbagging - her entire game is based on it. She almost pulled it off against Williams, and succeeded in making one of the game's most courageous and cool competitors throw her racket, scream, and go to pieces as she let one match point after another slip away before she finally converted her eighth. Contemplating her uncharacteristic struggle with nerves, Williams reflected:

Rena_2 "Well, at that point (fill in your match-point of choice - plenty to choose from!), you know, more or less it's me just feeling like, you know, I'm almost there. Or, God, I would hate to lose this match after being up so much. I think that's more of the emotion. Like, 'How am I going to sleep tonight? ,How many Ambien do I have in case I lose this match'  type of situation? So you know, you never want to go home like that. That's really one of the worst feelings, and I think when you think about all that, then you end up putting a little more pressure on yourself."

When Williams finally did convert that seventh match point, we looked at each other almost with a measure of disbelief, wondering "Can it be? Is this thing really, really over?"

The fans staggered away, exhausted, dehydrated (the match lasted two hours and 25 minutes), and not even sure that what they watched could be called in any way "good." It sure wasn't classic, but it most definitely was interesting. They had goofy grins plastered on their faces. I'll bet half of them had so much fun that they had no idea where they'd parked the car.

As Williams and Jankovic awaited the presentation ceremony, the beaten finalist thought back to the racket smashing episode and whispered to the winner, "You really smashed that racket to pieces."

William replied, "Yeah. I had to."

I know the feeling. Pass the Ambien.

[ PS - you can check out Tom Perrotta's preview of the men's final here.]


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Posted by KG 04/05/2008 at 07:03 PM

wow! I'm first. what an honor. Yes, Pete I'm so with you. To say that match was 'interesting' is putting it mildly. More like a roller coaster. I was going crazy watching Serena throw away point after point. IN FACT, I was screaming and hurling epithets at my screen so when she smashed that racket, I was thinking ABOUT TIME TOO...but I had to laugh when Carillo made the comment abt racket abuse....lol.
-------------
"You really smashed that racket to pieces."

William replied, "Yeah. I had to."

LMAO.....LOOOOOOL....That is soooooo funny. Now I wonder, would that back and forth had happened if it was the final of a Grand Slam?? hmmm!!

All credit to Jelena though. She really hung in there and could have actually gotten back in the game especially as Rena was helping her. But I'm a bit sad she's selling herself short. She needs to believe she can go out there and destroy anyone. In other words, she needs a dose of Mama Rena's 'arrogance' so to speak.

Posted by Andrew 04/05/2008 at 07:05 PM

"Like all good things and train wrecks" - quite so.

Also, "As we settled into our seats in the shade of press row to watch Jelena play the final of the Sony Ericsson Open against Serena Williams, we were expecting a tough, compelling and basically sensible clash between the best attacker and best defender in the WTA game. What we got was semi-orchestrated insanity hitting dramatic heights usually reserved for pro wrestling."

Interestingly, I'm having a discussion on this very topic with Ruth, Mrs Santa and others on the CC thread. Care to guess which side I'm taking - good thing or train wreck?

Posted by Sher 04/05/2008 at 07:12 PM

wow, that's the worst pic i've ever seen of Jelena

Posted by jb 04/05/2008 at 07:15 PM

Fun post Pete. I mean dang - i was expecting a corker of a match and I got 3 sets of wtf?!! Watched it at my mom's house - we could NOT believe it. Jelena does crack me up; so funny how she plays better when she laughing. And watching Serena imploding was fascinating; sort of like watching an accident actually happening and wondering what hail would break loose if she managed to lose.

But man - IF she plays a full season, it'll be a hail of a ride this year!

Posted by jb 04/05/2008 at 07:15 PM

Fun post Pete. I mean dang - i was expecting a corker of a match and I got 3 sets of wtf?!! Watched it at my mom's house - we could NOT believe it. Jelena does crack me up; so funny how she plays better when she laughing. And watching Serena imploding was fascinating; sort of like watching an accident actually happening and wondering what hail would break loose if she managed to lose.

But man - IF she plays a full season, it'll be a hail of a ride this year!

Posted by jb 04/05/2008 at 07:16 PM

crap. sorry about the double post. sigh.

Posted by Bismarck 04/05/2008 at 07:18 PM

i like your take on it, Pete. and on JJ especially. she is just a hoot.

KG,
even more useful than serena´s self belief would be serena´s serve for JJ... if you have clear limitations in your game, self belief can carry you only so much imo.
that said, serena´s self belief is outstanding and plays a huge role in what she has accomplished over the years.

Posted by jb 04/05/2008 at 07:28 PM

Bissy - the commentators were talking quite a bit about jelena's serve, fitness etc. If she could shore that up, she'd have a hail of an easier time.

I also think her humour is key for her; she's not AFRAID to lose. And oddly enough, on her, I think it keeps her loose and allows her to play her way out of tight situations.

Posted by Jani 04/05/2008 at 07:29 PM

I loved the match, drama filled, Jankovic is a fighter just when she looks like she will lose she jus tthrows everything at you and her tennis starts to come togther. I think Serena let the occasion get to her a little bit and struggled to just win the last point, had she not broken and won the match i feel like she would have sturggled to win it.

Any way i'm just glad she beat Justine because it was getting real stupid in those quarters matches but Serena finished her with a loss of 2 games, looks like the world number one in women and mens tennis are having a bit of a hard time.

Jankovic needs to fix the second serve in roder to step it up one more gear.

Posted by KG 04/05/2008 at 07:32 PM

Bissy, I heartily agree. If JJ had Rena's serve, she'd have a killer game. But putting herself down like that does her no favors either. Also with you on Rena's self belief too. That's why I love her so much even though it's frustrating to hear her talk that way when she's not playing!!

Like Carillo said today: Serena likes to prove people wrong but she (Serena) proves her (Carillo) wrong when she's not playing. Meaning she knows Serena should still be dominating the sport. In fact she went on further to say Serena and Venus should be co-owners of the sport and I thought that was classic.

And I have to say Serena looked fabulous today. I haven't been able to watch tennis all week cos of sh*tty coverage as usual so imagine my euphoria when I was able to watch this match AND see Rena looking toned. I did like multiple takes and stared for ages I tell you. I hope she keeps it up for this year. She is long overdue for some consistency.

Posted by George 04/05/2008 at 07:34 PM

First of all congrats to Serena and Jankovic for a great match. I like both players and they bring a lot of rare exciting energy to the court.

It seems to me that you are a Jankovic fan - thats fine, but as a tennis writer, you should put all sentiments aside to create a neutral page to write on. You subtly criticized Serena's action on the court and compared it to wrecks of all sort.

Well, excuse me Pete but a professional tennis player, a multiple grand slammer if you will, should be upset if they squander so many match points in a final [especially when your opponent is doing nothing to create the errors].

Your article was all about Jelena's strengths and pleasant character; you don't even congratulate the winner or commend her efforts.

If Jelena had won, I think the match would have been a thing of beauty to you.
Cheers.

Posted by temes 04/05/2008 at 07:42 PM

I liked Jankovics comments about Serena. So true. lol And that's what I call gracious!

Posted by Tyron 04/05/2008 at 07:58 PM

I liked today's match for numerous reasons. Even though I almost bit my hand off watching Serena miss seven championship points, but was cool was that she, as Mary Carillo stated, did an excellent job at self-correcting herself. Furthermore, Jelena is a classy lady, almost Davenport-like in her sportmanship towards other players. Furthermore, I love that Serena is proving that she doesn't think in her own world that she is the No.1 woman in the WTA, but she battled through the game's elite this week and proved that she can still do it whether people want to give her credit for her game or not. When she is fit, there is no woman more dominant than her and she is determined to prove it - with her game.

Posted by Master Ace 04/05/2008 at 08:00 PM

Congratulations to Serena for her win today even though she should have won the match 6-1,6-4 worst case scneario after getting off to a 3-0 double break lead. However, let's give credit to Jelena for hanging tough with some excellent defensive play and patience which forced errors from Serena.

But the stats show the following on winners to errors:
Serena - 51 winners 52 errors(12-8/17-22/22-22)
Jelena - 16 winners 43 errors(3-10/7-14/6-19)

IMO, when Serena is -5 or better in the winners to errors, she will win about 95% of the time as she goes for her shots.

Posted by jb 04/05/2008 at 08:06 PM

temes! I saw your girl in Miami for the first time ever. Once just walking towards us - and of course, playing. You could tell as she walked from the practice court how fit she was. She looked amazing, and all I could think of when I saw her was 'holy crap - temes would just plotz if he saw her'.

uhm, her tennis didn't s-ck this week either... I do think we'll be seeing her more as it appears she's hungry to play and win. which has got to be a big yippee. And i've remained incredibly cynical about her dedication in the last few years, so this means I'm shedding my, 'oh sure' attitude and getting on the 'serena's back' bandwagon.

Posted by Tsongo 04/05/2008 at 08:10 PM


It was so unlike Serena that she could not close out the match at 6-1, 5-3. Jelena said as much.

The metaphor from Jankovic is the best ever in cyberspace. She said that she felt like she was a featherweight champion battling a heavyweight.

There was really no "comparation" to begin with.

Wow, Jelena is like a Roddick -- gracious and grounded in defeat.

"mud-wrestling in chiffon cocktail dress" -- WOW, classy beautiful language so appropriate to Jelena.

Posted by Aka 04/05/2008 at 08:13 PM

"Freeze the pose, add the trailing rope of hair, and you could carve it into a nice wooden figurehead for the SS Serbia."
--------------------------------------------------------------

So, you can't make a commentary without sticking a spear into Serbs back!! Well, Bodo, now you just made yourself 10 Million enemies. That's how smart you are!

[rant deleted by Moderator]

And now, Mr. Bodo you just continue where your favourite man stopped. Well, i am not surprised. We all know that Nazy program is still alive.

Posted by Aka 04/05/2008 at 08:18 PM

Oh, yeah...something just caught my eye, and I am sure the eyes of thousands:

publishing a picture of an athlete in full action with her skirt up and revealing her under (on this site) is the character of yours. (And the character of those who pay you to do that). Now the world has a chance to see the way your mind works, Mr. Bodo.

Posted by JillfromNY 04/05/2008 at 08:18 PM

Co-sign with George's comments. To find Serena's crisp shotmaking during the first set a bore is an odd way for Bodo to look at a match. But, whatever, I was very pleased with the outcome.

Posted by twixx 04/05/2008 at 08:18 PM

aka, are you just stupid or what? there's nothing pejorative in these words. sticking a spear into serbs back!? men, what r you talking about??

Posted by Billy 04/05/2008 at 08:20 PM

Could we perhaps talk about the winner? What a Jankovic panegyric. And to say that Serena is a ball-basher when she has so much variety. >:(

Posted by Master Ace 04/05/2008 at 08:21 PM

With the HC season over for the moment, it will be very interesting to see how Serena will perform on clay. Believe that she will play Charleston(green clay) and probably Rome. Hope she add Berlin to the schedule so she can get match ready for Roland Garros. Jelena(along with Ana and Svetlana) got a lot of points to defend during the clay season. This is a good chance for Serena to climb the rankings.

With Serena now fit and her serve is still dynamite, her only weaknesses is her footwork(technique on shots) and patience. During some stretches today and in set 3 against Sveta, she showed patience on some rally and if she continues that, watch out WTA.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/05/2008 at 08:22 PM

Somebody definetly needs some head on- Aka apply it directly to the forehead. Great match and great blog Pete.

Posted by Rosangel 04/05/2008 at 08:25 PM

SS stands for Steamship - the reference was to Jelena as the figurehead on a ship.

Posted by nyc 04/05/2008 at 08:27 PM

I really enjoyed watching the match today. They are both great competitors and both pretty nutty.

I also really appreciated watching quality tennis television coverage. CBS's coverage really highlighted how pitiful FSN's telecast, picture quality and sound effects have been over the past month. I am not a huge fan of Mary Carillo, but I found her comments interesting and insightful. CBS' analysts had great rapport and didn't drone on and on with tacky cliches like Justin Gimelstob and co over at FSN.

FSN already has the rights to the Year End Championship in China, right? But that should be the last tennis coverage they are ever given.

Posted by Aka 04/05/2008 at 08:29 PM

Posted by twixx 04/05/2008 @ 8:18 PM

aka, are you just stupid or what? there's nothing pejorative in these words. sticking a spear into serbs back!? men, what r you talking about??

--------------------------------------------------

Nobody's stupid, as a stupid man can believe.

"SS Serbia" published by Peter Bodo in this article cleary indicates his vision of that country!!

Ever heard for SS people, i.e Nazy??? (SS Leuten). Well, that was Hitler and his World War Two program.

Again: Nobody's stupid, as a stupid man can believe.

Posted by mick1303 04/05/2008 at 08:30 PM

There was no TB. Jelena won 2nd set 7-5.

Posted by twixx 04/05/2008 at 08:34 PM

budaletino, ss stands for steamship. seems we have a severe case of paranoia here.

Posted by mick1303 04/05/2008 at 08:35 PM

I really hope that author was referring to some other SS. Not german SS of WW2. [Moderator edited - due to irrelevance to tennis discussion].

Posted by Bismarck 04/05/2008 at 08:40 PM

geez, Aka, did the thought ever cross your mind that SS is not only an acronym for schutzstaffel but for a whole lot of other things too?
wouldn´t be too bad if you read the things in context.

Master Ace,
i remember some reports that serena has confirmed to play in berlin this year.
whether she really will show up is of cuz a whole different question. ;)

Posted by jb 04/05/2008 at 08:40 PM

aka - what i saw, and what thousands prolly saw, was an athlete dressed appropriately in tennis gear, including shorts, hitting a forehand and demonstrating exactly the movement that Pete had described in his post.

Interesting that you are so easily offended by where YOUR mind chooses to take you.

Posted by JillfromNY 04/05/2008 at 08:40 PM

Co-sign with NYC. The FSN coverage was terrible. Just terrible. Tennis not on when listed. Matches tape-delayed in favor of hockey. I also had a newfound appreciation for the CBS coverage and announcing team.

Posted by Ruth 04/05/2008 at 08:41 PM

Pete: Enjoyed your report on the match. Your report and that match remind me in some ways of another post you wrote about hitting shots or playing tennis the "right" way always as opposed to doing what it takes to WIN.

JJ is hilarious. Her comment about the Woody Harrelson (sp?) movie is too funny. But, as you said, she is doing some serious sandbagging when she talks about her feathery weakness next to Serena's POWER. Her shots were flying over the net with the same speed and force as Serena's; and when Pat Etcheberry gets through with her, they'll be flying as hard and as fast as Justine's. (JH was also a student of Etcheberry.)

With more accuracy from both JJ and Serena, their next match probably feature the kind of correct, properly played tennis that some folk desperately want. Let's hope that it will as riveting and as entertaining as today's match was to, well, some of us. :)

Posted by Moderator 04/05/2008 at 08:43 PM

No more discussion about the SS. It is quite clear that the reference in the article was to a hypothetical "Steamship Serbia". The context leaves no room for doubt. ("you could carve it into a nice wooden figurehead for the SS Serbia").

Stick to what the article is about, not what it definitely isn't about.

Posted by Christopher 04/05/2008 at 08:43 PM

Aka-- You need to relax. As Rosangel noted above, "SS" here stands for "Steamship." Such as the SS. Great Britain (and who could forget the SS. Minnow?). It has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the Nazis in this case. Pete was picturing JJ as a proud figure leading the nation, not as anything negative. If he has said "the Serbian SS,"
that would be another story.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_prefix for more fun details on ship prefixes.

Oh, and you might want to apologize to Pete.

Posted by Christopher 04/05/2008 at 08:46 PM

Moderator- sorry, posted before I saw yours.

--USS Christopher

Posted by Bismarck 04/05/2008 at 08:46 PM

Master Ace,
just checked the german open website.
henin, ivanovic, kuznetsova, sharapova and serena williams have confirmed to play so far.
who will play there in the end forrealz is anyone´s guess of cuz.
would be the first time since 2002 that serena plays in berlin.

Posted by jbradhunter 04/05/2008 at 08:46 PM

all this steamboat referencing and now I hear Shirley Temple singing "The Good Ship Lollipop"...
great final- Jelena matches up well to Serena- seems to be Jelena's defense and the "I'm not afraid!" attitude she has-- I enjoy Jelena's clapping of the racquet when her opponent hits a great shot and also her humility and humor-- she's got Etcheberry working with her on fitness so I would think her serve will get beefier as the year goes on-
Congrats to Serena and Serena fans! she's just so tough when she focuses and her ability to dig out points and then recognize openings and go for them is amazing :)

Posted by Tsongo 04/05/2008 at 08:47 PM

Aka, please control your overacting.

We all love Serb players. Serb players have a tennis technique that blunts the power of the heavyweights.

That a country of 10 million -- the size of one typical Asian city - can produce so many tennis superstars is no mean feat.

There is nothing racial here.

[Moderator edited - due to irrelevance to tennis discussion]

Posted by ay2013 04/05/2008 at 08:49 PM

you made it seem like Jankovic won the first set on her racquet because of her superior skills, when the truth is that Serena lost the set on her racquet. Were we watching the same match? Jelena won important points (including that last break in the second set) when Serena was double faulting, and throwing 99.9% makable volleys into the net..... please stop praising Jankovic for the game she supposedly has. If she did have everything you said, she would have already won a major by now, but alas she hasn't even come close.

Posted by ay2013 04/05/2008 at 08:50 PM

I meant to say Jankovic winning the second set

Posted by jbradhunter 04/05/2008 at 08:56 PM

I hope Serena can put up a challenge for the Roland Garros title-- I love the way Justine slides, slices and spins her clay play but I would also like to see challenges for the Queen on the red stuff

Posted by Moderator 04/05/2008 at 09:02 PM

Christopher - no worries. Thanks for adding clarity to the subject.

Posted by Tsongo 04/05/2008 at 09:03 PM


Serena has made a statement.

She has conquered the opponents who denied her the last four Slams.

Serena is the true Number One now, no matter what the computer rankings say.

Posted by ? 04/05/2008 at 09:04 PM

I didn't know Serena had a recent training regiment change. I thought she had lost lots of weight because of the gum surgery. Who is her new trainer?

Posted by twixx 04/05/2008 at 09:04 PM

to moderator: please, is there any way to erase aka's posts? it's unjustful to jj, offensive to all of us reading this blog, not to mention pete himself. thanks.

Posted by Aka 04/05/2008 at 09:10 PM

[Moderator deleted]

Posted by Christopher 04/05/2008 at 09:19 PM

"Serena is the true Number One now, no matter what the computer rankings say."

Tsongo-- I disagree with this, but I think it's an interesting question and worth discussing. "World #1" doesn't mean anything beyond what we say it means, what we define as designating that position in tennis. Serena certainly outplayed JJ today and crushed Justine a few days ago. But JJ beat Serena but a more lopsided score on a much bigger stage at the AO not long ago. If we want to define "World #1" as "who is playing the best tennis this week" then it's definitely Serena. Since we don't define it that way (and it would frankly be a wacky way to figure these things), it's definitely not. Otherwise, why don't we just say whoever wins any given tournament with the most of the top 10 playing is the world's best? Should we have considered Mardy Fish "World #2 (or #3)" just after IW? I think most people would say not.

I don't often agree with Samantha, but I have to say that Justine certainly still deserves to be called "world #1 (!)" at this point, even if she wasn't the best player this week.

Posted by TMF Rules 04/05/2008 at 09:42 PM

Somebody definetly needs some head on- Aka apply it directly to the forehead - LOL

Posted by Bismarck 04/05/2008 at 09:45 PM

word, Christopher at 9.19.
such " xyz is the real world number 12345" comments are always a tad off putting for me, cuz the spirit behind them seems to be "oh you can suck (relatively) for 11 months or more, but if you waltz through one tourney all is forgotten what was before".
and frankly, this is an injustice to the results others have put in.
serena won miami last year too in case people don´t remember anymore.
what did she do after that? zero titles for the rest of the year and only one more final i think.
did serena look fitter in miami this year than in a long time? yes. did she play inspired and at times even totally amazing tennis? yes (at least in the 3 matches of her i have seen). has she the strokes, the mind and "the whole package" to win many titles including slams this year? yes. certainly.
has she the consistency? not so sure on this one. i never count her out in any given tourney or match till she really is out, but it has been a very long time that i´ve seen a season from her i´d call consistently good (same for venus).
on-off-on-off-on-off has been the modus for years now.
i´m looking forward to see if she can change this erratic pattern this year. if she strings together a few months of high level tennis then i see no reason why she couldn´t become no.1 again.
but she hasn´t dominated the sport in 2004-2008. which is a long time in tennis, so i´m not sure it is as easy for her to go back to all around dominance as some seem to think just cuz she won a tourney this week.

Posted by Tsongo 04/05/2008 at 09:52 PM


You talk too much.

For Serena, actions talk.

Posted by Christopher 04/05/2008 at 09:54 PM

Bismarck- Thanks. Frankly I think that we humans have a tendency to put far too much emphasis on the immediate present when making judgments. How many times have we all watched tennis matches and listened to commentators say things like "X is just steamrolling over Y right now. This match is, for all intents and purposes, done" only to have Y come back and win? In fact, in the match today, one of the commentators was pronouncing Serena the "top player in the world" at 6-1, 3-0. That may have been a understandable thought, but as it turned out, Serena wasn't even the top player in that set!

We all need narratives to make sense of the world, they just don't all keep making sense the way we expect them to. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns, as they say.

Posted by Bismarck 04/05/2008 at 10:11 PM

serena´s actions (only the tournament winning ones) of the last 52 weeks:
bangalore, miami.

i fail to see what is number-one-worthy in that record.

Posted by Master Ace 04/05/2008 at 10:15 PM

Bismarck,
Thanks for the update on Berlin - I do hope we see Justine, Serena, Maria, Ana, and Svetlana there. Don't forget that Jelena will be part of that field. Also, Berlin/Rome Tier I is another tough road to navigate winning a total of 8-9 matches but not as dangerous as the Monte Carlo/Barcelona/Rome/Hamburg for the ATP with 3 of them Masters Series events.

My favorite part of the season starts Monday for the WTA (albeit it is green and not red clay)

Posted by Bismarck 04/05/2008 at 10:26 PM

Master Ace,
JJ hasn´t officially confirmed her participation yet so i didn´t include her on that list. but sure, would be a big surprise if she didn´t enter.
but i have a very hard time believing all 5 (or 6) of them will play there.
(serena? masha? i believe it when i see it, the others though seem sure candidates)

as an aside, in the german version of the tourney´s website kuz is described as "the reserved worker" while serena was coloured as "the glamorous attacker".

Posted by ciarrai 04/05/2008 at 10:28 PM

Serena looked real good at times and not so hot at others. She ought to eat Jankovic's lunch each time they play, though. As for Jankovic, she's all over the place. At least, she has nerve. Too bad she couldn't donate a wee bit of that to the beauteous Ivanovic who seems petrified whenever I see her play. I have a bulletin for anyone who plays the great Lindsay Davenport: Don't hit it right at her; make her run. She has the mobility of Sukova (remember her?). I get nuts watching these players hit the ball right at her so she can tee off on these sitters. Finally, To Richard Williams: I hope (and pray) that Serena was treated in accord with your standards at the Sony Erickson. If so, why don't you send an apology to both Tracy Austin and Chris Evert for your disgustingly rude characterizations of them. Next time you want to encounter a racist, I suggest you look in the mirror.

Posted by Nate Smith 04/05/2008 at 11:01 PM

Serena makes me crazy because she apparently can win any time she wants to ,but does not always want to .I am Never sure which Serena is going to show up .In the semi against Kusnetsova she looked beatable ,spraying balls out all over .In the first set of the final she is hitting flat winners just clearing the net off the sweetspot all set !Talk about power ,look it up in the dictionary and Serenas picture should be there ,but inconsistent day to day ,sometimes hyper emotional overseas.
why does it keep changing!
I always wonder what exactly they do to coach her.

Posted by JL 04/05/2008 at 11:05 PM

Jelena is such a DRAMA QUEEN. She called the trainer when she was trailing in third set, and this ALWAYS happens. Whenever she's losing, she calls her trainer so she can get some rest and distract her opponents. If her head really hurt, she wouldn't have been able to fight back and win three games.

Posted by Tsongo 04/05/2008 at 11:14 PM


At least Jelena has the truthfulness to say she only tried to prolong the inevitable.

16 winners to 51 winners, what does that say?

if Serena had only cut down on those errors, we would be talking about a classic match for ages.

Posted by JillfromNY 04/05/2008 at 11:25 PM

I'm pleased that Janko didn't use the 10 min. heat rule. I thought for sure that with her need to create drama that she would. And, she didn't. It shows some maturity on her part. But, she really needs to learn how to focus. Focusing on the celebs who were watching her match means she has alot of maturing still to do.

Posted by Theresa Pothier 04/05/2008 at 11:29 PM

Can we be viewing the same Janovic as I over the past year's
tennis events? I find this girl (woman, lady)lacking any semblance of humility. The way she plays to the crowd with what I see as a fake smile and a pretence that she is having fun while over acting cutesy movements. When she is interviewed she reveals a personality full of her own importance. She could learn
a lot out about empathy, humility and caring from Ianovic who
appears to be the opposite of Janovic. My daughter reacts the same as I every time we watch Janovic play or be interviewed.
We her credit for continuing to play hard and never
giving up no matter how far down she finds herself. She has a
lot of talent and obviously has worked hard to be playing as well
as she does BUT she as well as Djokovic could learn from observing players like Nadal and Moya for example.


Posted by pippo 04/05/2008 at 11:42 PM

" When she is interviewed she reveals a personality full of her own importance. "

Theresa, please read Jelena's post-match interview again.

" My daughter reacts the same as I every time we watch Janovic play or be interviewed. "

Well, let her read the interview again.

Posted by Backhand blaster 04/05/2008 at 11:54 PM

Sorry if I come across as uptight, but I think Serena's outbursts whether hitting a good shot or bad, are unnecessary and cross the line of good sportsmanship. Her crushing of rackets rivals the bad behavior of anyone else, man or woman, on either tour. If Roddick had done the same, I think many posters would have showered him with criticism.
Serena, good work. I love the fight. You are the best when you want to be, but I don't like the example you set during your outbursts.

Posted by Backhand blaster 04/06/2008 at 12:00 AM

As for Serena on clay...I hope she continues to improve her fitness, but until she does so to a much greater extent she will struggle on clay...especially against Justine who is much lighter and quicker. It's not Serena's lack of speed on the clay, it's her difficulty changing direction. The momentum of all of that weight is tougher to redirect on the slippery red clay than on hard courts or grass. I hope she proves me wrong.

Posted by ? 04/06/2008 at 12:04 AM

You know, the funny thing is I have to agree that there is something that strikes me as being insincere about some of JJ's comments. I don't have any evidence of this, but when she smiles on court, it has this air of mockery surrounding it. Maybe I just read into it the wrong way, idk.

Posted by tennisfan04 04/06/2008 at 12:24 AM

Peter,

I was hoping to ask you a question but the contact box at the top of this page does not allow me to send you an email. How can I get an email over to you?

Thanks

Posted by Erin 04/06/2008 at 12:55 AM

Posted by KG 04/05/2008 @ 7:03 PM

All credit to Jelena though. She really hung in there and could have actually gotten back in the game especially as Rena was helping her. But I'm a bit sad she's selling herself short. She needs to believe she can go out there and destroy anyone. In other words, she needs a dose of Mama Rena's 'arrogance' so to speak."

I totally agree, Jelena is selling herself totally short, she can play, and she can play great. Our commentators sold her short too, but that's no surprise. If Jelena hadn't been so off early in the match and feeling so bad from the cold, she had a good chance at winning this match. She has a decent record vs Serena Williams. Her ability to track down balls and defend is among the best in the business.

Posted by Erin 04/06/2008 at 01:02 AM

Posted by Nate Smith 04/05/2008 @ 11:01 PM

Serena makes me crazy because she apparently can win any time she wants to ,but does not always want to .I am Never sure which Serena is going to show up .In the semi against Kusnetsova she looked beatable ,spraying balls out all over .In the first set of the final she is hitting flat winners just clearing the net off the sweetspot all set !Talk about power ,look it up in the dictionary and Serenas picture should be there ,but inconsistent day to day ,sometimes hyper emotional overseas.
why does it keep changing!
I always wonder what exactly they do to coach her."

If Serena could win anytime she wanted to, something tells me she would have alot more slam trophies in her cabinet.. Sometimes other players can win "when they want to" as well ;-)

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 04/06/2008 at 01:28 AM

Pete - Minor error there - "The tense, second stage of the match ended with Jankovic winning set 2 in the tiebreaker."
- Jankovic won the second set 7-5, it didn't go to a tiebreak.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 04/06/2008 at 01:35 AM

Jankovic needs to work on her serve. With a good serve, she could be a grand slam contender. But without that, she'll always fall short on the big stages.

One thing I've noticed about this generation of Serbs - Jankovic, Ivanovic and Djokovic, is how similar their groundstrokes look. The same laser-like deep, penetrating shots to the baseline off both sides, powerful two-handed backhands, and the ability to change direction at will.

Posted by Spacenoxx (El Stupido aka The Moron From Majorca) 04/06/2008 at 02:30 AM

Tsongo @9:03 pm

If its just a matter of winning against the opponents you lost to then Nadal can also be called No.1 but that's completely wrong and disrespectful to Roger and Justine.

They are current number ones and deservedly so....IMHO.

Posted by elenas 04/06/2008 at 04:29 AM

"white girls cant play" LOL...Jelena is something else

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/06/2008 at 06:42 AM

I think what people are missing about this match is what Jelena said in her post match interview. Here is what she said, she said she was surprise that a player who had won so much failed to close out the match when she has so many chances. She said that on the close out points, Serena was playing like it was her first time there. The stats on this match don't bare out the belief that Jelena played well. She had only 16 winners compared to 51 winners for Serena. That is a tremendous difference. She had 8 breaks against her serve. (Few players win with that stat.) I saw this match similar to Jelena. A player nerves allowing another player to stay around longer than that player's ability. Sometimes a score doesn't really tell what happen in a match. This score shows a close match, but the stats and Jelena's own words contradict this. BTW, it was very surprising to see this from Serena who is a great front runner, but hey, we're all human.

Posted by Rolo Tomassi 04/06/2008 at 07:44 AM

Pete - Man was this fun to read - I bet the players themselves would enjoy the portraits your render here - brutally honest but clearly affectionate toward both. That White Men Can't Jump line must have cracked up the press room.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/06/2008 at 07:54 AM

For me this match didn't show me how good Jelena was, but it exposed her greatest weakness, the serve which is a huge liability because it's the most important show in tennis.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/06/2008 at 08:47 AM

important shot. I'm picking Rafa to win.

Posted by a suggestion 04/06/2008 at 09:20 AM

not your problem, i'm guessing. someone needs to fix the double (and occasionally triple!) linking to stories on the front page of tennis.com. it's pretty amateur. sometimes the articles are great, but clicking different links (sometimes with different titles?!) to the same story is not.

Posted by Moderator 04/06/2008 at 09:53 AM

Keep the comments on this post on topic please, folks.

Posted by JR 04/06/2008 at 10:23 AM

Interesting quote from Etcheberry(?)--"Jelena is not fit." And then, Mary C--"Etcheberry doesn't think anyone is fit." :)

Posted by Zaki 04/06/2008 at 10:23 AM

Pete, thank you for this great article. Pay no attention to stupid comments from some of my fellow Serbs. Serena, at this level of form, is just too much for Jelena. Also, Jelena had too many unforced errors for a defensive player. If you want to play defensively and win, 43 UFE is way too much.

Posted by colin 04/06/2008 at 10:47 AM

eh, rafa will be numero uno by after england.. the way fed is playing at this rate. & Serena clearly can pwn any of the wta-ers anyday if she puts her heart, mind, and trainin into it. She played very determined this tourney, because she wanted to win in front of her friends(w/livin in fl)! wouldnt call her #1 yet but if she keeps winnin she'll b there. but dang! im with ya on this one pete, i like jj. She needs to not sell herself short w/skills, practice improvin her 2nd serve confidence and cut out the early errors in her sets and she'll do better. -rockon-c

Posted by Marcus 04/06/2008 at 11:27 AM

A crazy match indeed. Serena cruised then when on an unforced error frenzy. Jankovic is humorous but doesn't have a good enough serve to beat Serena at this point in her career. She is very athletic and probably the best defensive player on tour. Serena looks as fit as ever and claims to be totally focused on tennis. Critics will nitpick, criticize and bemoan the Williams Sisters success. Oh well they have dominated the era and have the hardware.

Posted by Selena 04/06/2008 at 11:30 AM

Lol, pass the ambien. I can't even imagine how serena felt. I am really proud of jelena, she stuck with her. It was a great comeback, and she has great sportsmanship. I'm looking forward to a great year of tennis from her.

Posted by Pete 04/06/2008 at 11:32 AM

FYI - I didn't mean to give Serena short-shrift in the coverage, although I can see where some of her diehard fans might feel that way. You know, when I sit down to write about a match widely seen on television I'm more concerned that usual with finding something original or unique to write about, without gratuitiously seeking sensation or controversy and while still being relevant. Y'all saw the match, and you know what you saw, and there are plenty of straight match reports to be had in Internetland, and I try to stay away from that. Enjoy the final, CC post to come.

Posted by Voks 04/06/2008 at 11:52 AM

Right Selena. I'm also very happy for Jelena and everything that she represents. I've found the match completely interesting and entertaining. Two of my friends with whom I've been watching said at the 3-0 in the second set something like "Aahh, its over....booooring!!!! Change the chanel, give ME the remote!!!", and I said "Ooooo noooooo!!!". Serena could not keep up, which in a way mirrors her recent form, and JJ knew that, as she usually knows in her matches. She also has shown that her game is improving and, if injury free, she could be more dangerous, esp knowing of lack of consistency from other top players. Also congrats to Serena and her fans.

Pete, the article was great and insightful, very good layered too. Really, no need to excessively praise either one.

Posted by Pete 04/06/2008 at 12:12 PM

While personal attacks on me are treated with a greater degree of tolerance than those directed at other comment posters, our policy is to delete infantile or silly comments simply because they bring down the generally high standards of the dialog here, and I'd like any new or occasional readers to have an accurate view of this site. So criticize away, but don't make a fool of yourself - not on our dime.

Posted by Keith 04/06/2008 at 02:19 PM

Not every single final is always going to be the most compelling and entertaining match of all time! It was a weird match to be sure, but a win is a win and Serena needed it.

Posted by yayan 04/06/2008 at 04:46 PM

This article made no sense except only if it was meant to inflame Serena fans. She just won a major tournament and this is what this idiot writes about.

Posted by Tamara 04/06/2008 at 05:04 PM

the thing with Jelena is that primary to her is to make people on the other side to struggle if she wins in the proces thats bonus for her.she doesn't enter in matches with higher seeds to win but to make their life difficult.
I still remember wimbledon two years ago when after her wins (vaidisova ,then kuznecova)in interviews she expressed joy that her opponents were very irritated.She was saying to the jurnalists did you see how iritated was she (with smile on her face) -reffering to kuznecova.
the same was yesterday she couldn't kept her smile off seeing serena so frustruated.

Posted by pippo 04/06/2008 at 05:26 PM

"the thing with Jelena is that primary to her is to make people on the other side to struggle"

Yeah, Jelena is Mefistofeles of the WTA tour.
All other players are full of empathy when she plays bad.
Please.

And stop spinning the story. Jelena never played Vaidisova or Kuznetsova in Wimbledon.

Posted by Tamara 04/06/2008 at 06:09 PM

sorry it was 2006 us open
copy paste from sony ericsson wta tour( most notable performance came at US Open, reaching first career Grand Slam SF (d. No.10 Vaidisova, No.7 Kuznetsova and No.5 Dementieva) I was sure that was wimbledon I don't know why .I don't hate Jelena ,I was just stating a reason why she may never win GS,she satisfy if she plays higher seeds hard.

Posted by L 04/06/2008 at 06:40 PM

Many people look at tennis as a sport where you can't express yourself, but it's okay to show agression in tennis. It's okay.
Serena crushing racquets is fine because she's showing emotion, and that's okay. It shows that she really wants it. When everything you try isn't working out, I'm sure you'd want to crush a ravquet too.
The Williams sisters are not big whiners.
They're just criticized at a ridiculous amounts.
They don't even challenge as much as other player, unless it's really obvious.

Posted by L 04/06/2008 at 06:42 PM

It does seem that even when Serena and Venus win, the loser ends up being talked about more in the article than they are.
It's like if they win, then it was expected, but when they lose, they are crucified. Doesn't make any sense but that's how it's been for the past 11 years.

Posted by L 04/06/2008 at 06:48 PM

I haven't read a more lopsided article in a while. If I hadn't watched the match, I wouldn't have known that Serena actually defended her title at the Sony Ericson Open. Wow.

Posted by johnk 04/06/2008 at 09:50 PM

Just because a writer chooses to focus an article on one aspect of a match does not make it racist or belittling of the Williams' accomplishments. Get over the victim complex.

Posted by 04/07/2008 at 10:41 AM

"Jelena is such a DRAMA QUEEN. She called the trainer when she was trailing in third set, and this ALWAYS happens. Whenever she's losing, she calls her trainer so she can get some rest and distract her opponents. If her head really hurt, she wouldn't have been able to fight back and win three games. "

I just can't love her like many of you do on this board. I think JJ is laughing AT her apponents most of the time. I call it a "smirk",but apparently it is a "smile". She just rubs me the wrong way.

Posted by 04/07/2008 at 10:55 AM

Can we be viewing the same Janovic as I over the past year's
tennis events? I find this girl (woman, lady)lacking any semblance of humility. The way she plays to the crowd with what I see as a fake smile and a pretence that she is having fun while over acting cutesy movements. When she is interviewed she reveals a personality full of her own importance. She could learn
a lot out about empathy, humility and caring

Well said

Posted by 04/07/2008 at 10:55 AM

“don't have any evidence of this, but when she smiles on court, it has this air of mockery surrounding it.”


“Mockery”…that is what bothers me about her…like I said in an earlier post, I always feel as if she’s laughing AT her opponents. Glad to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Posted by 04/07/2008 at 10:59 AM

"Just because a writer chooses to focus an article on one aspect of a match does not make it racist or belittling of the Williams' accomplishments. Get over the victim complex."


This happens all too often with the Williams sisters. Using words like "racist" and "victim complex" won't make us stop calling it like it is. I'm not afraid of being accused of using the "race card". Fire away....

Posted by Tennis Fan 04/07/2008 at 12:33 PM

I've been gone for awhile but I did see both finals. Glad to see Daveydenko win and play so well even though he has a "boring" game. He really deserved to win. Maybe the men will be more like the woman now.

Loved the above article! This was a very interesting match and JJ makes it interesting. I've been reading Brad Gilbert's book "Winning Ugly" and even though JJ did not win, she was using his tactics. On paper she cannot beat Serena but thank God matches aren't played on paper! She is looking for a coach. Maybe she should get Brad, I'm sure the british would let him out of his contract and I think they would be good together.

Serena looks good however she is not at her best. Pannetta took her to three sets and JJ exposed that maybe Serena is not as cool under pressure as she appears to be. What about JJ, saving so many match points, everyone else would just cave against Serena. She definitly has something. SNAP power!

However, Serena did win, even if it was ugly. Go Serena! It should be and interesting at the FO and Wimbeldon when all the characters are assembled together. It's never 'boring' in the WTA.

Zvonareva - What is with the covering your head with the towel thing? She needs to get over something, but I don't know what. She could be great. I think they should not let her have any challenges because after she wasted them all she played better and took did not use the towel anymore.

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