Two familiar foes will meet for the 14th time today as Serena Williams takes on Jelena Jankovic in the first of the women’s quarter-finals at the Western and Southern Open. Check out the Williams vs Jankovic Head to Head.
Serena booked her place in the last eight in routine fashion, dispatching 13th seed Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-2. The world number one was solid on serve, firing down eight aces, landing 67% of first balls in court and winning 69% of the points when she did. She also managed to fend off four of five break points.
The hour-long match was an easier watch for Serena’s fans then the previous day’s struggle against Sam Stosur, when she was kept on court for almost double that time. It’s fair to say that the American hasn’t yet peaked on hard courts this summer. Her title in Stanford did not come easily, and she was bested by sister Venus in Montreal last week. Hitting top gear in Cincinnati would therefore be ideal for Serena . Not only would it leave her brimming with confidence on the eve of the US Open, she would also have a great chance to finally get her hands on one of the few tournament trophies missing from her cabinet.
Believe it or not, Jelena Jankovic’s 7-6(4), 6-4 win over Sloane Stephens marked the first time since the French Open that she’s won consecutive matches. The Serb, defending semi-final points in Ohio, needed a good run this week to have a chance of earning a top eight seeding in New York, and Thursday’s performance was encouraging. Stephens had Jankovic under pressure at many points during the two hour, eight minute contest, but Jankovic grit her teeth and played brilliant defence when she needed to.
That positive attitude is a pre-requisite for this afternoon’s showdown with Serena: Jankovic simply won’t get anywhere if she gets down on herself. To her credit, the 29-year-old is one of the few players on tour who regularly raises her game when playing Williams. Although she trails the head-to-head 4-9, total blow-outs have been rare, and she has succeeded in getting under Serena’s skin on several occasions.
Of course, if Serena is close to peak form then Jankovic won’t have a chance, for all her stubborn defending and bloody-mindedness. But if the top seed has a mediocre serving day then Jankovic could make this clash very competitive. She is an astute returner, can go very big with her backhand and will move forward if she gets a short ball. Moreover, she’ll resort to brick-wall mode at times to frustrate Serena into going for too much.
Prediction: these two will keep the crowd entertained with lengthy rallies and jaw-dropping gets before Serena asserts herself in a lively third set.