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U.S. Open title No. 3 makes Serena No. 1 again

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by Douglas Robson, USA Today

Serena Williams is the first to admit she hates losing. After her six-year U.S. Open drought — and having to go through sister Venus to end it — this one tasted that much sweeter.

Fighting off four set points — just as she saved 10 against Venus in the quarterfinals — Williams captured her third U.S. Open crown Sunday with a hard-fought and at times thrilling 6-4, 7-5 win against Jelena Jankovic of Serbia.

“I’m sorry, I got so excited,” Serena told Jankovic at the net after hurling her racket in the air and hopping up and down following a crosscourt backhand winner in the 2-hour, 4-minute contest at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Williams reclaims the No. 1 ranking she held for 57 consecutive weeks but has not owned since Aug. 10, 2003, the longest gap ever between stints at No. 1. She also leads all active players with nine majors, including New York titles in 1999 and 2002.

Williams and Jankovic provided plenty of theater in a high-level match that featured brilliant shot-making, momentum shifts and even body shots by both players.

No. 4 seed Williams tapped into the tenacity that helped her dominate earlier this decade and pulled out her best when she was behind.

Cheered on by Venus — to whom she lost in the Wimbledon final — Serena Williams finished with 44 winners to Jankovic’s 15.

“Serena was a better player tonight,” said Jankovic, 23.

Williams, who turns 27 this month, won her first U.S. Open as a bubbly, beaded 17-year-old in 1999. A decade of drama later — after cat suits, knee-high boots and denim mini-skirts — Williams the player came through in 2008.

“It is that special because I’ve been working that hard,” she said.

Williams’ last 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 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.”


Written by Symphony

September 8, 2008 at 5:47 am

One Response

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  1. Go’head Serena!


    September 8, 2008 at 8:22 am

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