Patience prevailed over Venus's power

Updated: 03 June 2007 14:10 IST

Venus Williams stood still, all straight-faced and serious, during a TV interview right before she played in the French Open's third round.

Patience prevailed over Venus's power

Paris:

Venus Williams stood still, all straight-faced and serious, during a TV interview right before she played in the French Open's third round.

Her opponent, Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, giggled while delivering her sound bite. She then kept right on smiling when she stepped on court, when she heard her entourage's wild cheering, when she hit spectacular shots, and, widest of all, when she won.

Seizing control while Williams faded down the stretch, Jankovic won the final six games to reach the round of 16 at Roland Garros with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 victory Friday.

"Am I discouraged? No, not at all. I feel like I'm playing well, actually," Williams said after making 49 unforced errors, 23 more than Jankovic. "I don't feel like she came out there and really beat me. I just feel like at times she was a little more patient than I was."

Williams' loss means one US singles player is left from the group of 19 men and women who entered the clay-court major: her younger sister Serena, who beat Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4 later on Friday to get to the fourth round.

"I don't care if it's on clay or grass, hard court or on mud," Serena said. "I'm going to be here, and I'm going to be competing and doing whatever it takes to win."

Time and again, Jankovic did what it took to extend an exchange until Venus produced a miscue. Jankovic bore down in the closing set, winning six of the eight points that lasted at least 10 strokes.

Tough contest

"Each time you play the Williams sisters, it's really a tough game," Jankovic said. "And you have to be on the top of your level if you want to beat them. They are the best athletes in the women's game."

That may very well be, but Jankovic was far fresher on this day.

"I was really moving her around," Jankovic said, "and probably she got tired."

Said Venus: "I felt a little bit slow."

US Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison noticed.

"Her energy just wasn't there at the end," said Garrison, who chatted with Venus on Thursday.

"My thing with Venus is just to make sure she understands, 'Play within your game,'" Garrison added. "That's the thing: I know she wanted this really bad, and sometimes you can want it too much."

Not an upset

In some ways, this was hardly an upset.

Jankovic is seeded No 4, her highest placing at a major, while Venus was No 26. Plus, there's this: Jankovic has won their past three meetings, including at Wimbledon last year and at Charleston, South Carolina, in April.

Still, Venus is a former No 1 with more titles from Grand Slam tournaments alone (five) than Jankovic has from all tour events (four). Jankovic's run to the US Open semifinals last year and her Italian Open clay-court title last month prompted people to tab her as a rising star, but Venus already has been there, done that.

Here, then, was Jankovic's take: "I never had in my mind that I'm going to lose the match."

And she didn't, at least in part, because Venus compiled nine unforced groundstroke errors before Jankovic made her first. Venus wound up flubbing 22 forehands and 15 backhands, many sailing several feet beyond the baseline.

"It did go long, long, long," she said. "But in my experience, when it goes long, long, long, it's only a matter of time before it goes in, in, in."

Serena didn't watch her sibling's loss but did offer this guess as to what happened: "She obviously probably didn't play her best."

Jankovic, who now faces No. 18 Marion Bartoli of France, also succeeded by handling Venus' big serves. The American clocked a Grand Slam-record 206 kph (128 mph) in the second round, and one delivery at 201 kph (125 mph) on Friday caused Jankovic to shake her racket hand after making contact, as if to say, "That stings!"

But Jankovic broke Williams a total of six times, including in Game 1. Further proof that speed isn't everything: Jankovic won 20 of 24 points on her serve in the first set and 12 of 15 in the third.

"She does everything well," Williams said, "and it's important to do everything well to get to the level that she's at."

That includes volleying, and Jankovic won the point all eight times she went to the net. She ended one 16-stroke exchange by flicking a back-to-the-net, over-the-shoulder reflex volley. Her supporters in the players' guest box including Mom, coach, agents, PR rep, sparring partner and friends rose in unison to applaud and shout approval, drawing a wide grin from Jankovic.

"When it's a good point," she said, "why not smile?"

Topics : Tennis Venus Williams
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