Experience prevailed tonight.
Serena Williams defeated Jelena Jankovic in an often nervous but ultimately riveting match 6-4, 7-5.
It lasted over 2 hours, including a 1 hour, 17 minute second set that brought everything to the table: dramatic rallies, set points saved, a match point saved, key errors and stirring winners.
For Serena, it was a coronation of a long road traveled back to the top spot (literally–she’s now the no. 1 player in the world). With the top players in women’s tennis knocked away with an injury (Sharapova), early retirement (Henin) and a bad loss (Ivanovic), the sport is rewarding the player who hung around the longest, even if it wasn’t exactly playing the best tennis we’ve seen from the game, or the best tennis we’ve seen from her.
Jankovic had her chances, including four set points when she was serving 5-4 in the second set. But she hit into key double faults, and, in the match, won an inexcusably low 54 percent of her points off her first serve; it was her first Grand Slam final, and it clearly showed. Serena herself was only 2 of 12 on break point chances in the second set.
Even if the match wasn’t perfect, it was certainly dramatic. Thanks to her fitness, Jankovic has a knack for inducing really long rallies, and when Serena is in the heat of the match there’s nothing she loves much than a long rally. Ultimately, Serena’s strength–mental and physical–is what led to her to the victory.
In flashes, Serena’s performance tonight reminded me of the Serena Williams that last won here in 2002 and dominated the game so profoundly five years ago. She’s back at the top now by virtue of the game’s problems just as much as her own determination, but she has the chance to prove that she, unlike every player after Justine Henin retired, is a worthy No. 1.