Sunday, April 07, 2013

U.S. vs. Serbia: Serena-Jankovic and Nole-Querrey

The 24th meeting between Venus Williams and Serena Williams was their most lopsided, with Serena winning easily 6-1 6-2 in the semifinals of the 2013 Family Circle Cup in Charleston. More than 9,000 fans attended the match, a record figure for the venerable WTA tournament that has been around since the 1970s. It was the first time the sisters had played each other on tour since the Year-End Championships in late 2009, so interest was high. Serena's 5th consecutive win in the all-Williams series improved her career head-to-head against her sister to 14-10. The score reflected the lowest number of games won (3) by the loser of the match in 24 meetings.

Serena is the #1 player in the world and is on a winning streak, having just picked up the Sony Open Tennis title in Miami last week. On the other hand, Venus is ranked #24 in the world (a huge improvement from one year ago when she was barely in the top 100) and is still learning how to remain competitive on the WTA tour while managing an auto-immune disorder (Sjogren's syndrome) which leads to fatigue, joint pain and lack of stamina. The fact that both sisters had to play 3 matches in under 24 hours must have been much more difficult on Venus than Serena.

Jelena Jankovic will be in the final, attempting to stop Serena from winning her 3rd consecutive title here. Jankovic is a former #1 player herself and has a surprisingly close 4-5 head-to-head career record against the current #1, including an important 4-6 6-3 7-6(5) semifinal win on clay in Rome (where she also beat Venus the round before in the quarters and then lost the final to the much lower ranked Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez). Jankovic is having a resurgence of her own and has already won a clay court title (her 13th career title overall) this year (in Bogota).

Serena's goal for the year is to improve her results at Roland Garros from last year (where she suffered her first round loss in a major) and on clay generally. She won both Charleston (w. Lucie Safarova) and Madrid (w. Victoria Azarenka) in 2012 (I was able to Serena in Rome during my vacation). Defending her Charleston title is a very likely occurrence, although it should be a fun to watch, and reasonably close match. The women's final will air on ESPN2 at 1pm EDT.

This is an interesting weekend for the Serbia-America rivalry in tennis. Serena is facing Jankovic in Charleston, while more than halfway across the country in Boise, Idaho the United States is facing Serbia in a Davis Cup quarterfinal. World #1 Novak Djokovic is trying to carry his team past a U.S. team that includes World #24 John Isner, World #20 Sam Querrey and the Bryan Twins. Amazingly, Serbia is one match win away from eliminating the United States if either Djokovic defeat Querrey or Victor Troicki defeats John Isner. The Querrey-Djokovic match will be played first. Djokovic has recently lost two matches in as many weeks (in Indian Wells to Juan Martin del Potro and in Miami to Tommy Haas) to end his red-hot start to 2013 and Querrey had been the last player to beat the World #1, on an indoor hard court in Paris last October. However, Djokovic has a 5-1 career head-to-head edge over Querrey, and dismissed the top American relatively easily 3 weeks ago and should be able to repeat that success in a best-of-five match.

The Tennis Channel will continue its live coverage of the Serbia-United States Davis Cup quarterfinal most of the day.

MadProfessah's prediction: Serena in 3 sets, Serbia d. United States in Davis Cup.

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