The Family Circle Cup final was still in doubt Sunday when a woman in the sun-splashed stands aimed a shout heard ’round Billie Jean King Court.
“Whose house is this?”
No. 1 ranked Serena Williams answered with a 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 victory over Jelena Jankovic. Charleston’s favorite tennis player became the first back-to-back champion since the Family Circle Cup moved from Hilton Head in 2001, winning her third title since 2008.
“Like I said, she is No. 1 for a reason at the moment,” said Jankovic. “She is serving very well, and she hits the ball harder than anyone else. Physically, she is the strongest out there.”
This tennis earth, this realm, this tournament.
All belong to Serena Williams, until someone better comes along with a blazing serve, killer instinct and longevity.
Or until we good citizens do something about it.
How about a new Family Circle Cup rule: If you win three tournaments on Daniel Island, win back-to-back, own the green clay, empower people of all ages and sizes, if you come and go with class, they name a street after you.
Or a school. A park.
The newly named civic piece of something significant would last as a tribute to an underdog, a comeback story. Terrific tennis tradition.
A French toast
The list of those inspired by Williams starts with little girls, grown-up women and African-Americans but hardly ends there.
Also include children who struggle with cross-country moves, young people perplexed when their parents divorce, athletes without conventional body types,
South Carolinians in general, Lowcountry residents in particular.
“I think women’s tennis is hands down the most popular sport for women. I believe that,” Williams said. “And internationally it’s huge. It’s great when you know we — I mean the WTA — started about 40 years ago and (Family Circle) has been a sponsor the whole time. It really makes you appreciate someone that can support the sport for so long, and it’s great.”
The once introverted American has grown into an international relations expert with Euro street cred. After last year’s Family Circle Cup final rout of Lucie Safarova, Williams revealed she planned to live in Paris part-time. This year in Charleston, Williams reported on how she has decorated the new place.
“Shabby chic,” she said.
Older folks, relatively speaking, can relate to Williams’ staying power. At an advanced 31, she is the oldest No. 1-ranked player in WTA history.
Of course, she is wiser, more mature. The younger Serena wasn’t so gracious about complimenting opponents. It’s pleasantly different these days.
Jankovic and her colorful personality, Williams said, are great for the sport.
“She’s really exciting to watch,” Williams said. “She plays with the crowd. She laughs on court. She smiles on court. She gets a lot of balls back and I think she’s an exciting player.”
Women’s tennis, struggling with other non-major sports for interest and advertising, would be a lesser place without Williams.
The Family Circle Cup wouldn’t be the same.
Serena Williams has given South Carolina and Charleston and Daniel Island great big hugs.
It’s her house.
Let’s hug her back, officially.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.