Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic exchanged some words during the final of the Family Circle Cup, after Serena, who lost the first set 6-3, claimed she wasn’t ready to return a serve early in the second set. At 40-15 in the first game, Jankovic went to serve and though Serena was in the crouched position seemingly ready to return, she put her racket up to halt the point in the middle of Jankovic’s service motion. “You gotta wait,” Serena says to Jankovic. Umpire Kader Nouni agreed and allowed for a let.
Here’s the rest of their exchange, which takes place at the 45 second mark in the video:
Jankovic: “How long do I have to wait?”
Serena: “Until I’m ready. I don’t play slow.”
Jankovic: “But you go like this [crouching in return position]
Serena: “Honestly, you got a problem? I’m not the one.”
“I don’t think I’m serving quickly because a lot of times when I played the other girls they tell me I serve slow and then when I play Serena she tells me I serve fast,” Jankovic said. “She should follow the return and not the opposite, like she said that I gotta wait for her to be ready. That’s not true.”
“She was even in the position,” Jankovic said, referring to the fact that Serena looked like she was ready to return serve. “That’s why I served. It’s not like I’m going to serve when she’s turned around.”
Serena would go on to win the next six straight games and the match, 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 to successfully defend Charleston and win her third title of the year. In the end, I think this tweet from tennis writer Bobby Chintipalli sums it all up:
This was a competitive match before JJ made Serena care.—
Bobby Chintapalli (@bobbychin) April 07, 2013
For Serena, the exchange seemed to both amp her up and calm her down. “I mean I think after that I just got really relaxed and I was like, honestly, Serena, you gotta kind of chill out and not get crazy and just you win, great. If not, you’re trying. She’s playing really well and just do the best you can today.”
But for Jankovic, who went on to win only two games for the rest of the match, the exchange shook her focus. “I have no idea what I was doing at the time, because you know, when you get in the zone and you’re just serving and focused and then all of a sudden you’re thinking about her getting ready and that’s not what I want to think about.”
“I lost my momentum and things started going downhill. That was in that second set. And until then I served very well and made a lot of first serves and I was in good control of the match. So it’s unfortunate.”
“You know, it’s a great learning experience. What can I do? I make those mistakes and went down with my focus but it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world.”
This isn’t the first time the two had issues over Jankovic’s quick pace between points. In their last clay match in 2010 in Rome, Serena also tried to slow down Jankovic’s pace by holding up her hand. The move was reminiscent of the “Hand Incident” during the 2003 Roland Garros semifinals, when Justine Henin refused to admit she put up her hand up to slow down Serena’s serve. Having been burned by the move back then, Serena made it a point to pull Jankovic aside during the handshake in Rome and tell her “I’m not Justine”.