Saturday, April 6, 2013

Jankovic to play Serena Williams in Charleston final

(photo by Daniel Ward)
2007 Family Circle Cup champion Jelena Jankovic made it to her second Charleston final in six years today when she defeated Stefanie Voegele 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 in a semifinal that lasted over two hours, and in which the wind was often a factor. Jankovic is skilled at playing in the wind; she won her 2007 title in post-tornado high winds that had debris swirling around the court.

In today's match, Jankovic was broken straightaway, but she broke back, then broke again to take the lead. Voegele saved a set point, but lost the first set, though she saved a set point. The second set featured a more animated Voegele, who appeared to have settled into the match, much as she did last night after losing the first set. The Swiss player was broken in her service game, and then had two break points against Jankovic, but failed to convert either of them.

When Jankovic served for the match at 5-3 in the second set, she was broken when Voegele attacked her second serve. Voegele then held at love in her next service game. She had a break opportunity when Jankovic served at 4-5, but Jankovic saved it with a huge serve. What followed was the best rally of the set, with both players barely skimming the net. Jankovic held when Voegele hit a forehand down the line that went long.

(photo by Daniel Ward)
During the second set, Jankovic showed some anger when a ballboy just stood in a corner instead of giving her a towel. She gave the towel an angry toss back at him, and--still muttering--walked to her seat while the crowd vocalized their disapproval of her display of temper. Crowd support--which was divided prior to the towel incident--shifted sharply to Voegele.

At 5-6, Jankovic saved another break point, this time with a sharp forehand pass. Though still handling the wind better than her opponent, she was also forced to handle
Voegele's aggression. The Swiss player was in form by this time, and was hitting her backhand down the line (long known as Jankovic's signature shot) with the same accuracy she had hit it against Caroline Wozniacki the night before. Over and over, Voegele gave Jankovic a difficult ball to return, and then moved smoothly forward to put Jankovic's shot away--just as she had done against Wozniacki.

(photo by Daniel Ward)
The set proceeded to a tiebreak, which Voegele won, 8-6. Cheers erupted from the crowd. Not only had they begun to favor Voegele, but they were also getting a third set, which was a relief after the earlier semifinal match. As for Jankovic, she slumped into her seat (wicker sofas are used on court in Charleston), threw her head back against the cushion, and proceeded to look weary.

Jankovic broke in the first game of the final set. She also managed to get in another (short) tirade about the ball crew because they weren't getting the balls to her fast enough. After complaining to chair umpire Eva Asderaki, Jankovic won her first service game with her well-known backhand down-the-line. She then elevated her serve to the point that Voegele was left behind. All was forgiven at this point, as the Serb again received a lot of crowd support. The Swiss upstart would win only one more game, while Jankovic earned a spot in the final.

After the match, Jankovic said she had been angry with herself because she had lost control of her serve in the second set.

This was a great tournament for Stefanie Voegele, whose down-the-line shots and skillful net play earned the admiration of Charleston fans. Currently number 63 in the world, Voegele will have a much better ranking next week. In her press conference last night, she talked about her injuries, and how she had lost belief in herself. She said it took a lot of work, but eventually, she regained her confidence. Her Charleston performance can only boost that confidence some more.

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