Serena Williams beats Jankovic for 3rd Open title
September 8, 2008
NEW YORK ” Serena Williams flung her racket straight up and jumped for joy, hopping and skipping and screaming and generally looking like someone who had just won her first U.S. Open title or earned her debut at No. 1.
It sure had been a while, though.
Displaying the talent and tenacity that allowed her to dominate tennis earlier in the decade, Williams outlasted Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 7-5 Sunday night in a thrill-a-minute match chock full of marvelous strokes and momentum swings to win her third U.S. Open championship and ninth Grand Slam title.
“Every one is so exciting, believe me,” Williams said. “This is cool because I’m at No. 9. I’m pushing the doors closer to double digits, which of course I want to get to.”
And there was this “added bonus,” as Williams termed it: She returns to the top of the rankings.
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“I think this title meant more to Serena than any title she’s ever won,” her father and coach, Richard Williams said.
As the women met at the net when it ended, Williams felt compelled to say to Jankovic, “I’m sorry I got so excited.”
No apology necessary.
Four times a single point from heading to a third set, Williams was simply relentless. She took the final four games, and 13 of the last 19 points.
“I felt I had her. I had her, because she was really tired at the end of the second set,” Jankovic said. “Who knows what would have happened if I had got into a third set? I probably would have had the upper hand. But who knows?”
Instead, Williams took the title without dropping a set. The closest she came to losing one? In the quarterfinals, when she beat older sister Venus in two tiebreakers.
On this night, Venus was in the guest box, cheering for Kid Sis.
“Her desire is unbelievable,” Richard Williams said. “I describe her as being a combination of a pit bull dog, a young Mike Tyson and an alligator.”
It was his youngest daughter’s first triumph at Flushing Meadows since 2002, and it guaranteed that the American will lead the rankings Monday for the first time since a 57-week run ended in August 2003 ” the longest gap between stints at No. 1 for a woman.
“I feel,” the 26-year-old Williams said, “like I have a new career.”
Williams’ previous Grand Slam title came in January 2007, at the Australian Open.
For Jankovic, it was her first Grand Slam final anywhere, and she was having the time of her life. She smiled even after losing points, and she kept a close eye on the overhead video boards, either to watch replays or to check out which celebrities were in the audience.
“They should turn it off, because I keep looking,” the Serb said. “You see your big face up there and you can’t help but look up.”
Jankovic was ranked No. 1 for one week last month and would have returned there by winning a title match that was postponed from Saturday night because of Tropical Storm Hanna. During the postmatch ceremony, Jankovic charmed the crowd, asking how much her runner-up check was worth (for the record: $750,000). Later, she said the drama of her matches and her fun-loving style of play meant she deserved an Oscar instead of a silver dish.
As good as the second-seeded Jankovic is at retrieving balls and extending points, Williams can do that with the best of them, too. That led to point after point lasting more than a dozen shots as both women scurried around Arthur Ashe Stadium, their sneakers squeaking loudly.
But the difference in strength was clear: Repeatedly after those lengthy exchanges, Jankovic was left shaking her racket hand, trying to lessen the sting. On the match’s first point, Williams drove a backhand winner with such force, such ferocity, that she sent one of her earrings flying.
The fourth-seeded Williams finished with 44 winners, 29 more than Jankovic, and smacked serves at up to 120 mph, a 14 mph edge over her opponent’s fastest.
The finish was fantastic.
Williams somehow prolonged the second set after falling behind love-40 while serving and trailing 5-3.
Those three break points were set points for Jankovic, and Williams deleted each one, with a backhand winner, an overhead winner and then by forcing an errant backhand on a 10-stroke point. A 98 mph service winner left a frustrated Jankovic tossing her racket up in the air like a majorette’s baton. When she sailed the next return long, Williams was at 5-4.
The next game was filled with as much drama as many a match.
Jankovic earned her fourth set point with an ace, then blew it by double-faulting.
Williams earned six break points and frittered away five. On No. 6, they produced a spectacular 22-stroke point that Williams ended with a forehand passing shot down the line.
As quickly as it once appeared things were getting away from Williams, she regained the lead. The next game featured more brilliant play by both, including a 24-stroke exchange Jankovic won with a forehand, and an 11-stroke point Williams took with a perfect stab volley.
Now up 6-5, four points from the title, Williams flexed her arm muscles and gritted her teeth. At the other end, four points from defeat, Jankovic went up to the bouncing ball and kicked it.
Serving to stay in it, Jankovic wasted a game point with a double-fault. Then she dropped a groundstroke into the net, presenting Williams with a second match point. Williams converted, ending a 14-stroke point with a backhand winner.
And then came the wild on-court display.
There were times when it looked as if Williams wouldn’t get to celebrate, even if one of her volleys left Jankovic sprawled on the court, doing the splits, then resting on her knees and covering her face.
To put it simply: Williams couldn’t put Jankovic away.
The underdog hung tough in the second set, saving two break points at 1-0 and two more at 3-2. She also complained to the chair umpire that Williams was taking too long between points.
“I really was a little bit upset about the umpire,” Jankovic said. “(Williams) took her time to recover and get herself back together.”
Suddenly, when Williams flubbed a drop shot, Jankovic broke for a 4-3 lead, then held to 5-3.
But Jankovic wouldn’t win another game.
Williams wouldn’t allow it.
“I figured, ‘All I have to do is win one point here and one point there,'” Williams said. “I was ready.”