Serena defeated Venus 6-1, 6-2 on Saturday in the Family Circle Cup semifinals
The sisters had not played each other since 2009
Serena will play Jelena Jankovic in the final
“She’s had a great week,” Serena said.
Serena got started early with her powerhouse serves and rarely let Venus gain any ground.
Still, Serena understands better than almost anyone what her older sister has gone through in recent years due to injury and illness.
“I think (the week) is positive looking for her and she can see the next, her next tournament be really more positive,” Serena said.
Serena Williams goes for her second straight tournament title and third here overall Sunday when she’ll take on Jelena Jankovic, a three-set winner over Stefanie Voegele.
It was the first time since 2009 the Williams sisters were playing each other in a tournament and the excitement was felt throughout the Family Circle Tennis Center. A crowd of 9,538 filled Billie Jean King Court, a single-session record since the tournament moved from Hilton Head to Charleston in 2001.
Serena has won five straight in their series and leads 14-10 since they first faced each other at the Australian Open in 1998. Back then, Venus was the more polished player and began a run of five victories over Serena the first six times they played.
Things turned in 2002 with Serena’s 6-2, 6-2 win in Miami, the previous biggest sibling margin before this one.
Since, Serena holds a 13-5 mark and has played some of her best tennis the past year.
Since capturing this title in April 2012, Serena has won Wimbledon, Olympic gold, the U.S. Open and reclaimed the world’s No. 1 ranking.
“Obviously, Serena is playing extremely well,” Venus says, “and it’s great to see her at No. 1 and just fulfilling every dream.”
Venus Williams’ career hasn’t gone as well. The 32-year-old seven-time major champion was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011 and took six months off from the game.
The condition saps her strength, meaning she must manage her game more than ever. She and Serena both had to win twice Friday because of rain postponements earlier in the week, something Serena says surely affected her sister’s condition.
“I mean she’ll never admit it, ever, but I don’t think she was 100 percent,” Serena said. “But you will never get that out of her, and quite frankly, three matches for her is much tougher than three matches for me.”
That showed on Saturday.
Serena surged to a 4-0 lead over her big sister and won the first set in 22 minutes. Venus Williams, who withdrew from her previous event because of back problems, picked up her game a bit in the second set but it was hardly enough.
The match ended when Venus mishit Serena’s final serve, and the sisters simply shook hands at the net when it was over, neither looking overly pleased. Serena waited until her sister left the court to cheers before talking with an on-court interviewer and giving the crowd a few comments.
Venus said dealing with this defeat won’t be different than any other in her long career. She said she had her chances to succeed and couldn’t do it, simple as that.
“We both had rackets and everything. I didn’t take advantage of my opportunities, so there’s no reason for me to be upset” at Serena, Venus said. “I just have to improve my game.”
Still, Venus Williams was smiling when she walked into the packed stadium court for warm-ups. She jumped on Serena’s first serve immediately to win the first point — and it was largely downhill after that.
Serena’s powerhouse serves and accurate groundstrokes rarely gave Venus room to move. Serena regularly delivered serves in excess of 100 mph that Venus couldn’t handle.
Serena Williams won the final game of the first set at love, and Venus looked out of options about how to break through.
When Venus did have a chance to tighten up the second set, Serena made sure it didn’t happen.
Venus won two points on Serena’s serve trailing 3-2 in the second set. Serena Williams won the next two points with serves of 107 mph and 108 mph. She followed that with ace off a 117 mph serve that Venus looked at before changing sides. Serena quickly ended the game a point later to regain control.
Venus was happy with her week, if not how she played against Serena. “You know, I’ve been off balance for a long time and I’m trying to regain my balance,” she said.
Jankovic dropped a second-set tiebreaker and trailed 2-0 to Voegele. But the former No. 1 took the final six games to advance.
Jankovic has won four of nine career matches with Serena Williams, including a victory in Rome in their last meeting on clay in 2010. She understands Williams is playing at a very high level right now.
“But I’m going to go out there and try to play my best tennis and try to go for it,” Jankovic said. “I have nothing to lose, and it’s a great occasion. It’s the finals.”
Czech Republic advances to Davis Cup semifinals
Lukas Rosol clinched the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup victory Sunday against Kazakhstan
Rosol defeated Evgeny Korolev 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-2
The Czech Republic will face either France or Argentina in September
ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — Defending champion Czech Republic beat Kazakhstan to advance to the Davis Cup semifinals with a match to spare on Sunday.
Lukas Rosol defeated Evgeny Korolev 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 on Sunday in the first reverse singles to secure an insurmountable 3-1 lead over Kazakhstan in the World Group quarterfinal series.
The Czech Republic took a 2-0 lead on Friday after Jan Hajek beat Mikhail Kukushkin and Rosol downed Andrey Golubev in the opening singles matches on indoor clay.
But Kazakhstan cut the lead when Golubev paired with Yuriy Schukin to beat Radek Stepanek and Hajek.
Kazakhstan beat the Czechs in 2011, upsetting the hosts 3-2 in the first round of the World Group.
“We are happy that it was over in the fourth match,” Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil said. “It was a big achievement to beat Kazakhstan on their home turf.”
Hard-serving Lukas fired 31 aces in the match to record his sixth Davis Cup win. The 63rd-ranked Czech landed his 15th ace to prevail on a first-set tiebreaker and his 30th to win the third set.
Korolev, who substituted for the originally nominated Kukushkin, was the first to break in the second and third sets, but Rosol broke back in both to force tiebreakers. Rosol dominated the fourth set, breaking Korolev two times. Rosol closed the match with a backhand shot down the line on his first match point.
“It was a very tough match. Evgeny (Korolev) played good tennis and kept me in anxiety through the entire match,” Rosol said. “But the scoreline is on the scoreboard.”
The Czechs were without sixth-ranked Tomas Berdych, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury, while Stepanek, who underwent neck surgery in January, was rested from the opening singles. He could have faced Golubev in the fifth match, but both teams agreed not to play it.
The Czech Republic beat Spain last year for its first title since 1980. It will host Argentina or travel to France in the semifinals in September.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France easily defeated Juan Monaco of Argentina to level their Davis Cup quarterfinal at 2-2 and force a deciding singles between Carlos Berlocq and Gilles Simon.
Simon picked up a back injury in Friday singles, but was expected to play.
Argentina took a 2-1 lead by winning the doubles on Saturday, but Tsonga overpowered Monaco 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 to silence the home crowd at Parque Roca on the outskirts of the Argentine capital. Tsonga converted six of seven breakpoints in the match for his fourth victory in four matches against Monaco.
France has won all five of its Davis Cup matchups with Argentina. The winner this time will face the Czech Republic in the semifinals later this year.
Serbia wins doubles marathon, leads USA 2-1
Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac beat Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-1), 5-7, 4-6, 15-13
Serbia now leads the Davis Cup quarterfinal 2-1
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will lead Serbia in the reverse singles Sunday
BOISE — The Americans figured they might be undone by Novak Djokvoic, or maybe 2010 Davis Cup hero Victor Troicki.
But Ilija Bozoljac? That never fit into the equation.
Bozoljac, a 27-year-old journeyman ranked 1,150 in doubles, teamed with former No. 1 Nenad Zimonjic in upsetting the top-ranked pair of Bob and Mike Bryan Saturday at Boise State University’s Taco Bell Arena.
The 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-1), 5-7, 4-6, 15-13 victory took 4 hours and 23 minutes and was the longest fifth set in terms of games in U.S. Davis Cup history.
Serbia now takes a commanding 2-1 lead going into Sunday’s reverse singles, where it can call upon its star, world No. 1 Djokovic.
“If he was Novak Djokovic, you would say, Maybe,” Courier said of Bozoljac’s highlight reel of winners. “Not a guy where he’s ranked. The ball doesn’t know what ranking is. The ball just knows where it goes. It was some incredible tennis.”
“I was just trying to focus through the whole match, not to think about the Bryan brothers, not to think about the Davis Cup match, just to try to play my best and I did it,” said Bozoljac on court while his teammates celebrated nearby. “I was trying to be relaxed, and I was.”
Whoever they faced, the Bryans, who entered with a USA-best mark of 20-3 in Davis Cup, figured to put the Americans in the much-needed driver’s seat following Friday’s split singles matches.
Courier expected the Serbs to juggle their lineup and perhaps insert Djokovic or Troicki for Bozoljac, but captain Bogdan Obradovic stuck with his original pairing in order to rest his singles players.
Bozoljac appeared to be the weak link.
He resorted to analyzing video clips on YouTube so little had he seen the Bryans play. He owned just six ATP Tour-level doubles wins. He last played a doubles match in October at a Challenger in Luxembourg (he lost).
But Davis Cup has a history of inspiring unheralded players that, playing for country and teammates, reach beyond their normal abilities.
“We’ve seen a lot of people in this competition rise up,” Courier said. “You look at the numbers next to the guy’s career, you see the performance today, something doesn’t add up. You clearly see there was some inspiration, chemistry with Nenad on the court, and you say, Too good.”
The Serbs struck first, breaking in the fifth game of the first set, but the Bryans immediately broke back and pushed it to a tiebreaker, which they lost 7-5 after holding a 4-1 lead.
Neither team held a break point in the second set but the Serb’s upped their game in the breaker, blowing past the suddenly nervy Bryans 7-1.
The Bryans, the most accomplished doubles team in history, had never come back from a two-set deficit.
They were up to the task.
“We always believed we could win the match,” Bob Bryan said. “Even when we were down two sets, we knew we were just a couple points away from getting it back.”
They almost did. After charging back to take the third and fourth sets — breaking Bozoljac and Zimonjic once each — it looked like they were on their way to knocking that off their career bucket list.
Serving first in the no-tiebreak fifth set, the Americans got out of early trouble by saving two break points on Bob Bryan’s serve in the ninth game. Four times they were within two points of winning the match.
But even with the boisterous 7,988 fans in the Taco Bell Arena breaking more frequently into chants of “U-S-A,” they could not crack the Serbian serves.
At 13-13 and with righty Mike Bryan serving, Bozoljac crunched another backhand return low at the American’s feet. He pushed a volley wide to give Serbia a 14-13 lead and its first break since the first set.
The Bryans managed two more break points on Zimonjic’s serve at 15-40, but the 36-year-old veteran came up with a flurry of big serves, including a 128-mph ace on their second match point.
Throughout, Bozoljac was a revelation. He served big and ripped return after return, many of them winners on his backhand side. He accounted in no small part for the Serbian advantages in aces (36-12) and winners (125-80).
Still, it was the thinnest of margins. Each team finished with 217 points.
“It’s just one point here or there,” said Bob Bryan. “It rested on a razor’s edge at the end.”
While the Bryans could not claim their first victory from two sets down, they did add a more regrettable statistic to their career ledger. Never before had they lost consecutive Davis Cup ties. But coupled with their loss to Brazil in February, that mark of consistency is no more.
On court, Zimonjic called it one of his best matches and his best in Davis Cup.
“I don’t think we can play better than this,” he said. The key, he added, was staying “together.”
The emphasis now shifts back to Sunday’s reverse singles.
It will be a big ask for the Americans, especially No. 20 Sam Querrey, who plays six-time major winner Djokovic in the day’s first match.
Querrey beat Djokovic at last fall’s indoor Paris Masters but trails 1-5 in head-to-head meetings, including last month’s straight-sets defeat at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
After starting the year with a 1-5 Davis Cup singles record, Querrey has won all three of his ties in 2013, including two in the USA’s 3-2 first round win against Brazil.
“He’s No. 1 in the world,” Querrey said Friday. “You got play great to beat him. If I’m going to win that one, everything is going to have to be working. But I’m confident after this match; I was confident going into it; I’m just going to go out there and lay it on the line.”
If Querrey prevails, the tie would come down to the final singles rubber between No. 23 John Isner and No. 44 Victor Troicki.
Both lost their opening singles matches Friday, with Isner falling to Djokovic in three sets and Querrey defeating Troicki in five sets.
Isner has never clinched a Davis Cup tie; Troicki won the deciding singles match in Serbia’s 2010 defeat of France in the final.
“The game plan is the same for me,” said Isner, who is 1-3 lifetime vs. the Serb, including a loss on clay in the first round of Davis Cup in 2010. “I got to go out and keep playing big and believing in it and try to cut down on my errors. I made too many errors today. But if it comes to me versus him, I’ll be excited and ready to go, that’s for sure.”
In a nod to parity, all four quarterfinal ties are in play Sunday.
The defending champion Czech Republic leads Kazakhstan 2-1, while Argentina is up 2-1 on France. Canada, which also won its doubles match 15-13 in the fifth set, leads Italy 2-1.