Does Jelena Jankovic hold the secret to Serena Williams?
Serena Williams is awesome.
She should blow Jelena Jankovic right out of Family Circle Stadium in today’s final of the Family Circle Cup.
Serena may be playing the best tennis of her life. Sister Venus probably would agree after being punished, 6-1, 6-2, Saturday afternoon.
Serena has awesome power. She hits the ball harder with a slow-motion-like swing than most of the players on the WTA Tour hit with a full swing. When Serena really turns her swing loose, opponents see bullets.
But push the clock back a decade when Serena was a young superwoman, and Justine Henin was a little package of dynamite. You know what happened that April day in 2003 when Henin’s crafty play brought Superwoman to her knees on the green clay.
Could it happen again today? The clay is still green.
Of course, Henin won’t be the opponent today. Jankovic will. And Jankovic is as cagey as they come.
There is something about Jankovic that can take the air out of the ball against a power player. The graceful Serbian has given the Williams sisters fits.
Jankovic got a little practice for Serena’s powerful groundstrokes and serves in the semifinals against unpredictable Stephanie Voegele. Voegele hit a bunch of winners, but nothing like she did the night before in a three-set conquest of former world’s No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.
Voegele saw her sizzling forehands and backhands and big jerky-quick serves melt on Jankovic’s racket. In Saturday’s post-match interview, the big question was why Jankovic gives the big-hitting Williams girls so much trouble. Jankovic wouldn’t reveal any secrets.
But there it was on display in plain daylight in Jankovic’s 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 win over Voegele. Jankovic’s soft hands. Not to mention her smarts.
Jankovic practically gave away the second set by netting an easy backhand passing shot at 4-3, 40-30. She later lost the set in a tiebreaker.
The match was reminiscent of what happened to Wozniacki the night before when the former world’s No. 1 appeared to have Voegele nearly beaten while serving with a 3-2, 40-love advantage in the third set. Wozniacki must have been thinking of golf star boyfriend Rory McIlroy as she stepped up to the line to hit a second serve. The serve sailed several feet past the service line, and Wozniacki dropped five straight points and the game, as well as the next three games and the match.
Luckily for Jankovic, she had another whole set to overcome her mistake.
The same might be said about Jankovic as Serena. The Serbian appears to be playing as well as ever, even at 28 years old. She appears to be hitting harder and serving bigger. But the big thing is her cleverness on the court, and great movement, not to mention her soft hands.
Can Jankovic upset the latest version of Superwoman?
Don’t be surprised if it happens.
Reach James Beck at email@example.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.