CHARLESTON, SC, USA - Serena Williams rallied from a set down to beat Jelena Jankovic in the final of the Family Circle Cup on Sunday afternoon, winning the 49th WTA title of her career and taking a step closer to yet another milestone - only nine players have ever reached the 50 WTA titles mark.
Williams knew Jankovic would be dangerous going into the final - their head-to-head was tight, a slight 5-4 advantage for Williams, but within that was only one previous clay court meeting, and it was Jankovic who won that one, a 46 63 76(5) thriller in the semifinals of Rome three years ago.
And it seemed like there were some lingering effects from that match in this one, as the No.9-seeded Jankovic toughed out some close games early on and eventually took the 45-minute first set, 6-3.
But like she has done time after time, the No.1-seeded Williams went right to work from there, her strokes starting to hit all their spots and her movement getting sharper and sharper as she cruised through the next two sets and eventually ran away with a 36 60 62 victory. After putting together an even differential of winners to unforced errors in the first set, 12-12, Williams' play in the next two sets was exceptional, producing a +14 differential, 27-13. Jankovic's final match numbers: 21-23.
"I was just trying to be more consistent," Williams said about the second set turnaround. "I felt so close in that first set. I felt like I could have been up 3-0. She was playing really, really well, but it was just a shot here, a shot there, and she played really well in the big points. And I had so many opportunities that I missed. She took advantage of all of that, and she went on to glory in that first set.
"After that I just got really relaxed and was like, 'Serena, you have to chill out and not get crazy and if you win, great. If not, you're trying. She's playing really well. Just try and do the best you can.'"
"I thought I played pretty well in that first set - I was holding my serve and then waiting for my chance to break," Jankovic said. "In the second set I had 40-15 in that first game and then again in another couple of games I had 40-15, 40-0. I should have focused and gotten those games. Of course she's going to go up and feel much better and she's again in control. That was unfortunate for me.
"In the third set I had some chances but I got tired. It was my sixth match here and playing Serena is not easy - you have to run a lot of balls down and hit as hard as you can and give your maximum. She's so strong. She's the No.1 player in the world for a reason. She was the better one at the end."
Williams, who has now won 71 of 75 matches since the start of last year's clay court season, won her third Family Circle Cup title - she won the Premier-level clay court event in 2008 and 2012 as well.
Williams now has 49 WTA titles. Only nine women have won 50 or more WTA titles, namely Martina Navratilova (167), Chris Evert (154), Steffi Graf (107), Margaret Court (92), Evonne Goolagong-Cawley (68), Billie Jean King (67), Lindsay Davenport (55), Virginia Wade (55) and Monica Seles (53).
Despite the loss, Jankovic has a lot to look forward to. In mid-February she was coming off a 12-month stretch where she had lost more matches than she had won - but since then she has gone 14-3, a stretch that has included winning Bogotá, making the semifinals of Miami and now the final here.
"I had an unbelievable week here in Charleston," Jankovic said. "I love coming back here every year and I enjoy every minute I spend on this court. And I love these sofas - I've been saying that the whole week! But congratulations to Serena, she's a great champion and played a great match today.
"Maybe next time she can play a little worse."