It was high drama under the lights as Serena Williams defeated Jelena Jankovic in the US Open women’s final, 6-4, 7-5, on Sunday night.
Rallies bordered on eternity. Both players displayed fitness, tenacity and hunger. And throughout the two-hour, four-minute battle, Will Farrell, Richard Branson and Natalie Portman applauded the performance.
On center stage, Jankovic was starring in her first Grand Slam final at age 23 while Williams was delivering an encore to her 1999 and 2002 US Open titles.
As Williams masked and mixed up her shots and eventually took charge of long points, Jankovic retaliated with a barrage of crosscourt groundstrokes.
Ultimately, Williams kept her composure as she had done throughout the two-week tournament – never losing a set – whether she was facing Venus in the quarterfinals, battling wind and Dinara Safina in the semis, or waiting an extra day as Tropical Storm Hanna delayed the women’s final.
On match point, Williams couldn’t hide her exuberance as she took her ninth singles title in a Slam, became the No.1 player in the world and earned $1.5 million.“I’m so excited,” Williams said during the awards presentation. “I wasn’t even going for No. 1. It’s just a bonus. But first, I’d like to thank my god Jehovah.” She then extended her gratitude to her mother, father and older sisters, including Venus who “gave me some game plans for the last two matches,” as well as her hitting partner.
Jankovic said, “I was proud to be in the final, but obviously disappointed that I lost.” She then took the microphone from announcer Mary Carillo to give a list of thank yous as long as an acceptance speech at the Oscars.
Williams, who turns 27 later this month, says she plans to stay in the game for many years, and the crowd seemed to relish the thought of a sequel, or perhaps a Williams-Jankovic trilogy.
What follows is a synopsis of Part One.
The first set opened with a 12-point game in which Williams held serve. Williams was broken at love in the third game, allowing Jankovic to take the lead 2-1. In the next game, Jankovic went up 40-0 on her serve (winning her eighth point in a row) and yet Williams broke back to tie the match at two games apiece. Williams held, then broke Jankovic to go up 4-2. Williams held again to make it 5-2 but couldn’t close out a 5-3 lead on her own serve. Leading 5-4, Williams broke Jankovic in the tenth game – on her second set point – to claim the set, 6-4.
In the second set, the intensity increased. With both players on serve and Williams leading 3-2, Jankovic was down 15-30 in her service game and – with a backhand crosscourt winner and subsequent error by Williams – Jankovic saved double-break point to tie the set at 3-all. In the next game, Jankovic broke Williams on her first opportunity for a 4-3 lead. Jankovic held in the eighth game to lead the set 5-3, but the ever-smiling Serb just couldn’t close it out.
In the next game, Jankovic went up 40-0 and failed to convert three set points. Jankovic’s lead narrowed to 5-4. Serving for the set, Jankovic managed to save five break points and gain a set point for herself but, incredibly, double faulted it away. At deuce, Jankovic made an impressive get, but the ball had bounced twice, and Williams, on her sixth break opportunity, finally converted to tie the set at 5-all. Williams made it 6-5 by holding serve in the next game. Then, all the pressure turned on Jankovic as she had to win her serve to force a tiebreak. Jankovic saved one match point, took it to deuce, got the ad when Williams’ shot hit the net, then double faulted and it was back to deuce. After Jankovic put a backhand into the net, Williams had match point. Williams nailed a backhand winner crosscourt and suddenly, her six-year wait for another US Open title was over.