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A Determined Serena Successfully Defends Sony Ericsson Title

The Sony Ericsson women’s final turned out to be a three set skirmish between Serbian Jelena Jankovic, the fourth seed and Serena Williams, the eight seed. Despite Jankovic leading 3-2 in their head to head, Williams, as the defending champion, was the favorite. Unworthy of being labeled a classic, but Williams hung on to win 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.

Looking fitter than last year, Williams was smoking with seven winners in the first two games. With Jelena having difficulty with her first serve, Williams pounced on the second. For her part, Williams was deft at coming up with powerful and well-placed serves, essentially service winners. At this juncture, Jankovic’s strategy of concentrating on Williams’ forehand, the unsteadier shot, was unsuccessful. In the sixth game, after Jankovic kicked in her second double fault, Williams cashed in on a double break point opportunity and went up 5-1. Then, Serena put away an overhead and served an ace placing punctuation on the first set 6-1.

In the second set, with Jankovic serving, a series of unforced errors permitted Williams to take a 1-0 lead. Unwilling to resign herself, Jelena produced a wry smile in an attempt to diffuse the stress. But, Williams continued to apply pressure, going up 3-0. With Serena up a double break, it appeared that the Serbian would make a prompt exit. Yet, in the fourth game, with a beautiful backhand winner down the line, Jelena had triple break point, she narrowed the gap 3-1. A jubilant crowd, craving more tennis, acknowledged her effort with a standing ovation. Subsequently, Williams had three break chances, but great defense by Jankovic, including a split on the hardcourt, stopped her from converting. Nevertheless, in the tenth game, Serena had the championship on her racket. Williams double faulted and missed two uncomplicated volleys to extend the match 5-5. Once again though, Serena had multiple break opportunities, but with two first-class first serves, Jelena got it to deuce. Disgusted, Williams began to ramble then splayed another error gifting Jankovic the game. At 5-6, Serena tried to prolong the set with a tiebreak. Akin to the first, the second set ended with a double fault, this time from Serena. Could this be a reversal of fortunes? Last year, Justine Henin breezed through the first set. Henin was serving for the match when Williams broke her, stole the second and eventually grabbed the title.

With momentum clearly on the Serbian’s side, Williams rebounded nicely in the third set. After squandering a 15-40 lead and giving Jelena a game point with her 36th unforced error, a despondent and frustrated Williams produced a great defensive backhand pass and an overhead winner to secure the break. Play was paused briefly when Jankovic called for the doctor because she felt “lightheaded [and her] head is going to explode”. A moment of lighthearted banter occurred when the physician asked Jankovic if she was on antibiotics. Jelena replied, with a twisted grin: “don’t you remember, you gave them to me”. When play resumed, Serena widen her lead 5-0. But, the scrappy, ever resilient Serb overcame a match point and managed to break 5-1. In the longest game of the match, 17 points, Jelena saved a championship point and needed five deuces before winning it. As Serena served, with her 43rd winner, she had triple championship point. But, she was denied by a combination of double faults, miss timed forehands and over hit volleys. Incredulous of the unfolding scenario, Serena let out a piercing scream. Quickly though, Serena erased any vision of her poor play with three consecutive winners which gave her triple break point. After shanking two returns, Williams put away an overhead and consolidated the win 6-3.

Although Serena had three times as many winners (48 to 16), she produced 55 unforced errors while Jankovic had far fewer. Jelena managed to keep the match close by saving 14 of 22 break points and converting 5 of 10 break chances. By prevailing, Williams earned her fifth Miami trophy, tying her with Steffi Graff as the tournaments’ foremost winners.

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