In a semifinal that almost should have taken place at the nearby Colosseum where gladiators of old dueled for Roman glory, the two biggest divas in the women’s game, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic ended up playing an error-filled yet entertaining match for almost three hours with more momentum swings than an episode of “Days of Our Lives”, complete with outbursts from both ladies.
But in the end, Williams wasn’t able to shake off enough dust from her four month break allowing Jankovic to win 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5).
An up and down affair throughout, the first set opened with four straight service breaks. But it was Williams who finally found her serve allowing her to break Jankovic in the ninth game to take it 6-4. But Williams’s forehand was well off contributing to her unimpressive 59 total unforced errors giving the steadier Jankovic the opportunity to reel of 10 of the last 12 points in the second set to take it 6-3.
After Williams jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the final set, she had a chance for 3-0 when Jankovic faced 0-40 on her serve. But Williams’s inability to put the game away, mostly due to Jankovic’s steady defensive backcourt play, would be the deciding factor as both players won bunches of games until Serena found herself with a match point serving for it at 5-4. But after Williams dumped a backhand, Jankovic got to 5-5 but promptly lost serve again. Williams still couldn’t put the match away, losing her serve at 6-5, forcing things to a tiebreaker.
And this is where the drama began.
After Williams found her serve again to jump out to 4-2, Jankovic took a very long time during the changeover before getting ready to receive serve. This threw Williams off and soon it was 4-3. But with Jankovic serving down 3-5, Williams herself held up her hand as Jankovic hit an ace which forced a let. Jankovic stormed up to the umpire’s chair berating him that Williams had to play at “my pace”. Despite this, Jankovic held for 5-5 after Williams missed a backhand. Finally, Jankovic held match point and only needed the one after Williams pushed another backhand long.
During the handshake, both players had a brief, yet cordial conversation with Williams saying something like “don’t be mad, it happens to me too,” perhaps referring to Jankovic’s spat with the umpire over the serving pace. Although what both divas said, or didn’t say, will be analyzed for signs of animosity, the most important thing is that Jankovic joins a list of rare players to defeat both Williams sisters back to back in an event and sets herself up as a real contender for the French Open only a few weeks away.