“Beating two Williams sisters in two days is amazing. I’m very proud of myself.” So said Jelena Jankovic on Friday, after beating Serena Williams 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) in the Rome semifinals. She destroyed Venus Williams, 6-0, 6-1 on Thursday.
Things heated up on the Roman clay, despite chilly weather conditions. Serena – the Big Kahuna, the Real No. 1, the Alpha Dog of the WTA - had plenty of chances to close out the match out in the final set. She was up 5-3, had a match point up 5-4 and built a 5-2 lead in the ultimate tiebreak. At 5-3 in the tiebreak, on J.J.’s serve, Serena put her hand up to indicate she wasn’t ready. Jankovic served anyway and the ump said the serve had to be replayed. That ticked Jelena off - and she went on to win the next four points and the match. Then this happened:
What was Serena saying during that exchange? According to tennis.com: “I would never (treat/cheat?) you like that… don’t think I would do that. I’m not (Justine?).”
Ah, yes, the old “hand incident” from the 2003 French Open semifinal between Justine Henin and Serena Williams, where the crowd was so pro-Henin, that they booed Serena for protesting the Belgian’s gamesmanship. Here’s a (scratchy) video of the famous “hand” incident
Serena was so torn up by the French Open incident that she was reduced to tears in the post match presser. She wasn’t so vulnerable after this one (via the tournament website):
“I really should have won the match. There was no excuse for not having won it,” the world No.1 said with her usual candour after the match, “I was not playing the points right. I felt that I should have won and I felt that I could have won but I cannot beat myself up over it. I just came back and I have not played a match since January. Whether it was mental or not, it was more about just making errors and winning the important points. I don’t know if that is match-toughness or just…. I don’t know. I am looking forward to Madrid and this is what I do know.”
“Maybe I was living the moment too much,” she smiled as she thought back to her match point. “I was looking at that amazing serve and I was thinking ‘Man, that’s great!’. She played an incredibly lucky shot – it was a framer – but I don’t want to be a person that dwells. It is what it is.”
Speaking of people on Serena Williams’s shit list, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-2, in the other semifinal.
Martinez Sanchez vs. Jankovic may not be the stuff tennis dreams are made of, but I know the French Open just got a lot more interesting.