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November 6, 2008

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2008 Sony Ericsson Championships
Doha, Qatar - November 6, 2008
Editorial by Jane Voigt

 

Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

Venus and Jelena Earns Berths in Semifinals
 
November 6, 2008 -- The Williams' sisters are now dead even head-to-head -- 9-9 -- after Venus Williams three-set win over her little sister today at the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha 57 61 60. Serena appeared to have the will, concentration, and game in the first set to pull off a victory, but as the second set progressed she imploded.
 
With her victory today Venus earned a spot in the semifinals. Because of the championship's round-robin format the sisters could meet again in the final although they are both in the maroon group. Very complicated... but that's the way the year-end contest could shake out. It's not such a bad thing, either. Under normal tournament circumstances once one of the Williams is ousted, the other moves through the draw in uncomplicated fashion. Here fans could be treated to a second match in the same week! Not bad for the price of a ticket.
 
These matches between Venus and Serena have become easier for fans to watch. But, it wasn't always like that. They met for the first time at the U. S. Open final in 2001 as the USTA stepped up to prime-time network television and inaugurated its Saturday night women's annual spectacle. No one really thought these talented sisters played their best tennis that night, but who could blame them. Over 22,000 packed Arthur Ashe Stadium. Some 22.7 million viewers gathered around television sets in living rooms around the world to catch a glimpse of history in the making, too. Who could block the media hype, the crowds, and the years they had spent growing up as sisters, to then play the final of a Grand Slam? But they did. Venus won that match 62 64. Their Wimbledon final this year was nothing less than awesome. Wimbledon audiences are polite, we know, but their reactions were eerie silent as the sisters rocketed the ball in grueling rallies. Their quarterfinal duel at this year's U. S. Open was a nail-biter, too, which Serena won in two tiebreaker sets. Today was for Venus.
 
With too many errors off her forehand side in the first set, Venus struck early in the second. She kept Serena moving, created angles that stretched her wide, and came to the next for put-away volleys. Serena was left to defensive tennis, which isn't her style. Venus closed the second set on a break of serve with a blazing cross-court backhand angle that left Serena flat-footed and looking dejected. She'd return to that disgruntled countenance many more times before they shook hands at the end of the match.
 
"They know each others games so well," Lindsay Davenport said from her satellite hookup in Los Angeles. "There's nothing they can't do well." And how do they put it all behind them afterward? That's what Tracy Austin wanted to know before their match this afternoon. Serena put it succinctly, "We leave it all on the court."
 
Before Venus and Serena played their match, the world's number one Jelena Jankovic matched up against Svetlana Kusnetsova from the white group. Usually the one who defends and lengthens point, Jankovic today came out more aggressive and intent on ending points quickly. After 178 matches this year, she's allowed to shorten things up. Her game face was a serious one today, too, which is in contrast to her more lighthearted attitudes she portrayed even last year. Being #1 has its formalities.
 
Kuznetsova had flashes of brilliance, however couldn't quite get it together enough to knock her opponent of course, even though Jankovic had the trainer out three times in the second set for back problems. Kuznetsova's mediocre serving percentage -- 56% -- gave Jankovic lots of opportunities to tee off on second-serve returns, too. Kuznetsova can't be feeling great about her performance here. She hasn't won a set, let alone a match. With her win, Jankovic clinches a spot in the semifinals.
 
In the third and final match of the day, Elena Dementieva, the Olympic gold medalist, played her countrywoman Dinara Safina, the silver medalist from Beijing. Safina hasn't won a match in Doha, or a set. Her breakthrough year has left her tired although her serve perked up today, reaching 64% for the match. She couldn't capitalize on break points, either, converting only two out of seven.
 
"No matter what, she is the most improved player of the year," Davenport offered. "It started in Berlin with her win over Serena Williams." This has to be a great consolation for Dinara, even though she lost 62 64.

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