Williams’ Interest Rate Rising

Times Staff Writer

Looks, in this case, were appropriately deceiving.

Serena Williams showed up at the Home Depot Center on Monday looking decidedly uninterested during her brief media-day appearance, and didn’t look overly engaged when she finally took the court Tuesday night for her first match in Southern California since 2004.

Fast-forward to Friday.

Williams, a wild-card entrant, fought hard for 2 hours 39 minutes in the hot afternoon sun at the JPMorgan Chase Open against an inspired and hard-hitting opponent, Meghann Shaughnessy, and won, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-4, in the quarterfinals.


There was passion and plenty of noise behind the shot-making, as well as anger when she lost the first-set tiebreaker after leading 4-2, dropping the final five points. Williams lifted her game enough after the first set, and Shaughnessy suffered a “big letdown” in the second to change the course of the match.

Williams had 12 aces and double-faulted only once. Shaughnessy broke serve once, in the second-to-last game of the match. She had two break points in the first set, and no more until the third.

With that kind of serving performance, Williams was going to be a difficult opponent, even coming off a tough three-setter against Daniela Hantuchova on Thursday night and carrying concerns about the state of her left ankle, which she hurt against Hantuchova.

Those questions were answered, and Williams is through to her second semifinal in two tournaments since returning to the tour in mid-July after a knee injury had kept her sidelined following the Australian Open in January. Tonight, she will face No. 16 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, who defeated her countrywoman Ana Ivanovic, 6-4, 7-6 (6).


“What I’m most proud about is the fact I’m not tired right now,” Williams said. “Usually after a long match, I get sore, my body is sore. I don’t feel that way at all. I feel like I could have stayed out there a couple hours more.”

Through the week, Williams, ranked 110th, has seemed increasingly relaxed off the court. She was asked about trying to add to her schedule to get seeded among the top 32 players for the U.S. Open this month.

“Well, that’s crazy,” she said. “I’m taking it one match at a time. I have two tough opponents to play here if I were to win tomorrow. I can’t dwell on that, dude, that’s crazy.”

And she said she was not in favor of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour’s experiment with on-court coaching at upcoming events in Montreal and New Haven, Conn.


“I can’t imagine my mom running up and down the court like Pat Riley,” she said. “What’s going to be so exciting about it? If you have people that are going to speak Russian, no one’s going to be able to understand that.”

In today’s opening semifinal, top-seeded Maria Sharapova of Russia will face her countrywoman, No. 3 Elena Dementieva. They have played six times on the tour, with Sharapova winning five.

Sharapova defeated No. 5 Dinara Safina of Russia for the first time in their last three meetings, winning their Friday night quarterfinal, 6-2, 6-4, in 1 hour 26 minutes, finishing it with a service winner.

Earlier, Dementieva struggled against American wild-card entrant Bethanie Mattek before winning, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1. It was the first set Dementieva has lost in three matches in this tournament.


Sharapova has hardly been tested, losing seven games in her first two matches before encountering a bit more resistance from Safina. She is on an eight-match winning streak, having won at Carlsbad the week before, and has not been pushed to three sets during this stretch.

Williams, meanwhile, has played consecutive three-setters. Her opponents are paying tribute, the way they used to when she was No. 1.

“She moves great; I’ve always said she and her sister [Venus] are the best athletes on the tour,” Shaughnessy said. “They get to balls most of the players don’t get to and hit winners.”

In Jankovic, Williams will be facing a fast-rising star. Older sister Venus is more than familiar with Jankovic, having lost to her in the third round at Wimbledon this year.


Serena is 1-1 against Jankovic, but their most recent meeting was in 2005 in Doha, Qatar, also in the semifinals. Jankovic was leading, 6-0, 4-3, when Williams retired because of an injury.


Featured matches

Today’s semifinal matches at the JPMorgan Chase Open, on the stadium court at the Home Depot Center:


Starting at 1 p.m.

* Elena Dementieva, Russia, vs. Maria Sharapova, Russia

Not before 7 p.m.

* Jelena Jankovic, Serbia, vs. Serena Williams


Los Angeles Times