CHARLESTON, SC, USA - After both had to play third round and quarterfinal matches the day before, one of the Williams sisters rebounded far better than the other on Saturday, with Serena Williams looking as strong as ever to defeat Venus Williams in the semifinals of the Family Circle Cup, 61 62.
One wouldn't have been able to predict the final result after the first point of the match - Venus devoured a Serena serve with a huge backhand winner up the line - but Serena would get going from there, winning the first four games in a row and eventually taking the first set in 22 minutes. Her play in the opening set produced some immaculate numbers - eight winners to zero unforced errors.
Venus squeaked out a couple of holds in the second set but the plot was still the same, and the No.1-seeded Serena would eventually close out the No.5-seeded Venus in a 54-minute straight-setter.
"When I'm out there, I'm really just focused on the ball," Serena said about playing against Venus. "I don't really focus on anything else, and I just try to go out there and do the best that I can.
"Venus has had a great week, and honestly, if she hadn't had to play so many matches, it would have been a much tougher match. She'll never admit it, but I don't think she was 100%. But you will never get that out of her. And quite frankly, three matches for her is much tougher than three matches for me. It's definitely not easy - because I'm struggling, and I can't imagine what she must be feeling."
"I felt pretty good actually - it would have been nicer to have more space between the matches, but it did not work out," Venus said afterwards. "But I played under the same circumstances as everyone else, at least in the top half of the draw. It has to be an even playing field here, and that's what it was.
"I had a chance to win the match. We both had racquets. But I didn't take advantage of my chances. I was controlling the points, but then I would miss. I have to improve my game. I have to get in these situations more often. I've been off balance for a long time; I'm trying to regain my balance."
Venus was playing her second Premier-level semifinal since returning from her seven-month illness lay-off last spring, having also gone this far at Cincinnati last summer, falling there to Li Na in three.
"I think people have been very supportive of me here in Charleston," Venus said. "They wanted to see a good match, of course, but I think they were also behind me as well. So that felt really nice.
"Hopefully Serena and I will play against each other again here."
Serena has now won 70 of her last 74 matches, a stretch dating back to the beginning of last year's clay court season - since then she is also 21-1 on clay, the only loss being at the French Open.
She will also go for her third Family Circle Cup title now, having already won it in 2008 and 2012.
"I love playing on this court," the American said. "I love this tournament. I think it's a good clay court. Like sometimes you play on certain clay courts and they're not good, and they're funny, and you can't really slide, or it's just weird. But this one is a really good one, particularly the last two years."
Following the No.1 seed into the final was No.9 seed Jelena Jankovic, who let the second set go but came back to win in three against the tournament's breakout star, Stefanie Voegele, 64 67(6) 62. Jankovic was in total control early on, building a 64 42 lead, but Voegele fought back to push it to a third, and even went up 2-0 in that third. But Jankovic ran off six games in a row to finish it.
"I didn't make those first serves at the crucial times in the second set and got really frustrated with myself - she took advantage of that and attacked my second serve and played very well in that second set," Jankovic said afterwards. "I was really mad with myself that I let the second set go and was down 2-0 in the third set. Then I said to myself, 'I have to forget about what happened and just regroup, refocus and start from zero.' And then I just got calm again and starting playing much better."
Williams leads Jankovic in their head-to-head, 5-4, though Jankovic won their only clay court meeting.