CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — It took a feisty exchange with Jelena Jankovic for Serena Williams to calm down. Then, settled and able to return to business, she was a winner once more.
Williams defeated Jankovic 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 Sunday for her second consecutive Family Circle Cup title. Momentum swung for good at the start of the second set, when Williams said Jankovic was serving too quickly, before she was ready.
Jankovic disagreed, but the bickering disrupted her concentration and her play. Williams won six straight games and 12 of the final 14.
Instead, the world’s No. 1 player displayed a brand of unstoppable tennis she’s shown often, and especially at this event. She became the first women to capture three titles since the Family Circle moved from Hilton Head Island to Charleston in 2001.
“Definitely a really cool accomplishment, really cool, especially at this particular tournament that has been around for so long,” she said.
It looked for a while that Jankovic was on her way to accomplishing what no one had done in a complete match since Justine Henin in the 2003 finals — Williams withdrew twice because of injury in that span — and defeat Williams on the Family Circle’s green clay.
Jankovic broke Williams twice on the way to winning the first set, the only one Williams had lost this week. “The key was I served very well and made a lot of first serves in, so she couldn’t attack it,” Jankovic said.
Jankovic, a former No. 1 player, had two chances to take a 1-0 lead in the second set when things unraveled. She served while Williams held her racket in front to signal she wasn’t ready. During the next changeover, Jankovic asked chair umpire Kader Nouni how long she needed to wait before serving.
“Until I’m ready,” Williams shot back.
Williams won the next eight straight points to take a 2-0 lead.
Jankovic acknowledged she should have shaken off the exchange and continued playing as she had. Instead, Williams surged back.
“I managed to lose them,” Jankovic said. “So, of course, she’s going to go up and feel much better and she is again in control. So that was my mistake, and it was unfortunate for my side.”
Jankovic, though, felt she did nothing wrong.
“She should follow the return and not the opposite, like she said, that I’ve got to wait for her to be ready,” Jankovic said. “That’s not true.”
It was the second straight tournament in which Williams dropped the opening set in the final before digging in for victory. A week ago, she lost 6-4 to Maria Sharapova and then won 12 of the next 15 games to win the Sony Open.
Jankovic tried to bounce back in the decisive set and was ahead 1-0. But Williams took the next three games to regain control. Williams pounded a 110 mph serve that drove Jankovic wide and then put away the ball near the net to take the match.
Any hard feelings didn’t seem to last.
Jankovic met Williams with a big smile at the net as the two traded good wishes. When the stadium announcer asked the crowd to acknowledge Jankovic’s strong play as she left, Williams joined fans in applauding.
For Williams, it was her 49th career singles title, moving within four of Monica Seles for ninth place on the WTA’s list. It wasn’t the easiest run to the top, though. Midweek rain wiped out much of Thursday’s schedule, meaning Williams had to win twice on Friday to make to the semifinals.
Once there, Williams had to face big sister Venus and responded with a 6-1, 6-2 victory, the most one-sided match in the siblings’ long rivalry.
Williams earned $125,000 for her third Family Circle Cup crown, also winning in 2008 and 2012.
She had hoped last year’s clay-court victory on Billie Jean King Court would spur a big run to a second French Open crown. Instead, Williams was knocked out at Roland Garros in the opening round by then 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano.
“This year,” she joked after the match, “my goal is to win a match at the French Open.”
Novak Djokovic crumples in pain after twisting his ankle early in his Davis Cup match against Sam Querrey on Sunday. The world No. 1 still managed to win.(Photo: Susan Mullane, USA TODAY Sports)
Questions loom after U.S. Davis Cup loss to Serbia
U.S. captain Jim Courier praises his team’s effort, but questions remain
For one, who will play the role on alpha male, as Andy Roddick did for so long
And for Novak Djokovic, the question is how injured is his ankle
BOISE — Serbia’s 3-1 quarterfinal defeat of the USA in Sunday’s Davis Cup leaves questions brewing.
With Andy Roddick retired, who will assume the alpha male role on the American squad, and is the current lineup the right mix for another title?
For Novak Djokovic, how will his decision to keep playing after twisting his ankle against Sam Querrey Sunday affect his goal of capturing the one major that has eluded him, the French Open?
Jim Courier, in his third year as U.S. captain, praised his team’s effort and said Saturday’s doubles loss changed the complexion of the tie.
Serbia entered the final day at the Taco Bell Arena with a 2-1 lead after Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac upset the No. 1 ranked team of Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-1), 5-7, 4-6, 15-13.
“The doubles was a big one for us,” Courier said. “(The) teams won the exact same amount of points out there, but one team won the match. We win that one, we’re out in the fifth match right now and it’s a different energy, different element.”
Courier noted that 2013 was not easy health-wise.
Isner arrived for February’s tie against Brazil in Jacksonville with little match play after injuring his knee. Querrey injured his pectoral muscle during his loss to Djokovic and struggled with his serve over the final two sets.
Mardy Fish did not play and has been slowly making his return to the tour after missing months due to ongoing issues surrounding a heart condition.
Ryan Harrison? The 20-year-old looked ready to make his presence felt and ranked as high as No. 43 last year but is in a continuing slump and now is on the verge of falling outside the top 100.
The U.S. team, which won the last of its record 32 Davis Cup titles in 2007, now has until next February to regroup. Whether Querrey, Isner and the 34-year-old Bryans remain the core could very well depend on who is least nicked up.
“This has been the team for the last three ties, and may very well be the team for the next five years,” said Courier, who has guided the USA to a 4-3 record. “We just hope that everyone will be healthy and we’ll have those options on the table.”
He added: “We’ll play the best players when the ties come around.”
On a positive note, Querrey won three of his four singles matches — two against Brazil, including a fifth-rubber clincher, and one Friday in five sets over Victor Troicki.
Coming into the season the 25-year-old Southern California native had been 1-5 in Davis Cup play.
“I think it’s been a good year for this guy right here,” Courier said of Querrey. “He came through for us in a big match in Jacksonville. He won three live points for us this season, so this is something for Sam to build on for next year and for the rest of this season on the tour as well, which is great.”
Djokovic has individual concerns.
He again was a hero in winning both singles matches and helping Serbia reach its third Davis Cup semifinal in the last four years without its second best player, Janko Tipsarevic. But he could have jeopardized his preparation for Paris.
In his post-match press conference, the six-time major winner said he was concerned with the swelling in his ankle and would have it examined by magnetic resonance imaging as early as Monday.
“The nature of the injury is still to be determined,” he said. “One hour and a half after the end of the match, all I can say now is it doesn’t look good.”
He did not sound sanguine about his prospects for starting on clay in Monte Carlo April 13, where he also resides.
“How realistic it is,” he said, “I don’t know.”
Still, Djokovic said he had no regrets, even if he might have retired at a regular tour event.
“Obviously it’s very strong emotion when you play for your country,” he added. “I guess that’s the biggest reason why I kept playing.”
Courier was not surprised that Djokovic hung in there despite the injury.
“Novak is such a complete tennis player,” Courier said. “We’ve seen him grow over the years not only game-wise but mentally.
“Today was an example of him drawing on that experience and energy when he had the ankle issue.”
Courier, the last man to win the Australian Open and French Open back-to-back in 1992, said reigning Melbourne champ Djokovic was capable of matching that feat.
In 2012, Djokovic was leading Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros final when showers stopped play and pushed it to Monday, stalling his momentum in a four-set loss.
“I think he would have last year but for a rain delay,” said Courier. “Certainly can.”
In the semifinals, Serbia will face Canada at home after the Canadians defeated Italy 3-1.
“Unfortunately Janko didn’t play this tie for us, but hopefully he’s going to play in September, and hopefully it’s going to be against Canada in Belgrade in front of 20,000 Serbian people,” said Serbian captain Bogdan Obradovic before the result was known.
Obradovic, on the heels of some inspired play by his team, will have his wish.