“Do you want to do this again, Jelena?” That was the question Serena Williams asked Jelena Jankovic in the final game of their quarterfinal in Dubai on Thursday. Serena was referring to their long-running argument about who plays too quickly and who plays too slowly, which had flared again in the last game. But she also could have been referring to the result. A few minutes after her query, Serena finished her fifth straight win over Jankovic, 6-2, 6-2.
Often we say that a match is “closer than the scores indicated,” but that wasn’t the case today. This was a straightforward win for Serena, despite the fact that, as she said later, she wasn’t at her best. Williams started well, breaking for 2-0 with a forehand drop shot winner, but she gave the break back right away with one of many forehand errors she committed on the day. Fortunately for Serena, her serve was working—she made 71 percent of her first deliveries, a number that will win her virtually any match—and Jankovic was even worse than her from the forehand side.
For much of the second set, JJ disappeared completely, unable to put a ball in the court. At 2-3, she was broken at love on a double fault; at 2-4, Serena held at love; and at 2-5, Jankovic went down 0-40 after three quick misses. By that point, it looked as if she just wanted to get off the court as quickly as possible. JJ even grew annoyed when a noisy fan delayed play and kept her from rushing even faster.
But Jankovic didn’t end up rushing off. She saved three match points with two smashes and a forehand winner. When she went to serve at deuce, Serena made her hold up. Jankovic didn’t like it, and took her case to chair umpire Kader Nouni. These two players have had the same argument at least twice in the past, most recently in Charleston last year. As Jankovic said, you’re supposed to play to the server’s pace; but as Serena said, the returner shouldn’t be rushed into the next point, or “quick served.” Serena’s delay in this case didn’t seem unreasonable.
Fired up by the dispute, the two women played some of the fiercer and better points of the match before Serena finally broke to end it. Fences appeared to be mended at the net, and Jankovic later said that she was angry at Nouni, who earlier in the match had apparently told her she was playing too slowly.
Fast or slow, Serena moves on to the semis, where she’ll face the winner of Alize Cornet vs. Carla Suarez-Navarro. She's a combined 6-0 against them.