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Serena thunders on while GB stage epic comeback

Serena Williams is pumped up after her win
by Alexandra Willis
Monday 8 April 2013

The weekend saw Serena Williams claim her 49th career title in Charleston, while Davis Cup brought drama to several spots around the globe...

It is a well-known fact that Serena Williams can blow almost as cold as she can hot sometimes. Things don't click, calls don't go her way, and she looks uncomfortable and not at ease. Especially when she plays certain players whom she knows she has struggled with in the past. That seemed to be the case against Jelena Jankovic in the opening set of the Family Circle Cup final in Charleston, Jankovic grabbing the first set of Williams 6-3, and the defending champion looking very much like she'd had cold water dumped in her coffee. 

But then, in the first game of the second set, Jankovic serving at 40-15, Serena protested to the umpire that Jankovic was serving before she was ready to receive. They had a slightly heated discussion, the Serb's concentration wavered, and Serena took full advantage. The little verbal spat was just what she needed to focus her mind and get her game in gear. She allowed Jankovic just two more games in the match.

"After that I just got really relaxed and was like, 'Serena, you have to chill out and not get crazy and if you win, great. If not, you're trying. She's playing really well. Just try and do the best you can,'" Williams said.

Romping through the second set 6-0, she broke early on in the third, and then broke again to take the title 3-6, 6-0, 6-2. Her third Charleston title, her third title of the year, and her 49th of her career, not only does it yet again cement Serena's position at the top of the women's game, it proves that she can start a match badly and recover from it. And that her mental resolve is at the crux of her success, even more so than her serve. 

Next on Serena's agenda, she admitted jokingly, was 'to play Roland Garros this year.' Said in jest perhaps, but it is clear that returning to the French Open's terre battue will represent Serena's biggest mental challenge perhaps since returning to the court at Eastbourne in 2011. There's no knowing the true nature of the scars left by last year's loss to Virginie Razzano in the first round until she reaches that point. 

Back to achievements already in the bag, rather than those ahead, with her triumph, Serena achieved a notable financial accomplishment. She overtook Pete Sampras as the leading American career prize money winner in tennis, her haul of $43.3 million eclipsing his $43.28. Only Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have amassed more prize money. 

The deep southern tournament was notable for other reasons too - Jankovic's success and enduring good humour, for one, Venus Williams's achievement in reaching the semi-finals and contesting a 24th career meeting with her sister, and the rise to notoriety of several American teens - Mallory Burdette, Madison Keys, Jessica Pegula, and Canada's Eugenie Bouchard too. And, doing it for the older generation, Bethanie Mattek-Sands astonishing 3 hour and 42 minute win over Anastasia Rodionova in the first round too. 

"I had an unbelievable week here in Charleston," Jankovic said. "I love coming back here every year and I enjoy every minute I spend on this court. And I love these sofas - I've been saying that the whole week! But congratulations to Serena, she's a great champion and played a great match today.

"Maybe next time she can play a little worse."

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While Serena broke records in South Carolina, the Canadian Davis Cup team broke a record in Vancouver, reaching the semi-finals of the competition for only the second time, exactly 100 years after they last featured in the final four. 

But of more hoopla and abandon, certainly on these shores, was the British Davis Cup team's achievement in recovering from a 0-2 deficit in Dwight Davis's competition for the first time since doing so against Germany in 1930. At the end of a weary day on Friday, in which first Dan Evans and then James Ward had been denied in five sets, it looked like the Murray-less Brits would not be leaving Coventry as winners. But after a confidence-boosting doubles win from Colin Fleming and Jonny Marray on Saturday, Ward produced one of the wins of his life to beat Dmitry Tursunov in five sets, before Evans thumped the inexperienced Evgeny Donskoy in straight sets.

 “This has to be one of the sweetest victories of my career, after the injuries of last year and coming so close (two points) to winning on Friday, winning this in five is a big achievement for me," Ward said.  "I really hung in there well when I was two sets to one down.  My serve really helped me out today and I have to say a big thanks to our support team for helping me recover and get ready for today.”

“I never played when we needed to win do that was a different experience but I was surprised by how the match went," Evans said. "The turning point was definitely when saved those break points at 3-4 in the second having been 3-1 up.  After that I was cruising.  For sure it’s one of the best matches I’ve played.” 

The Brits advance to the World Group play-offs in September for the first time since losing to Austria at Wimbledon in 2008, with Andy Murray expected to re-join the team.

Elsewhere in Davis Cup, Serbia pulled off a surprising win away in Boise, Idaho, against the USA, with Novak Djokovic surviving a twisted ankle to win the fourth and deciding rubber, after journeyman Ilja Bozoljac produced the match of his life alongside Nenad Zimonjic to upset the Bryan brothers. The Czech Republic cruised through against Kazakhstan, and Argentina eeked out a 3-2 win over France. 

In the zonal ties, Ecuador and Colombia triumphed in the Americas zone, Australia and Japan in the Asia-Oceania zone, and Poland, the Netherlands and Ukraine joined Great Britain as winners in the Europe/Africa zone.

Next up for everyone? Clay. 

 



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