Monday, September 5, 2011

US OPEN 2011: Serena Williams dismisses Anna Ivanovic, reaches ninth Open quarterfinal

Serena Williams dismisses Anna Ivanovic, reaches ninth Open quarterfinal

Monday, September 5, 2011

With good friend Spike Lee in attendance cheering her on, three-time US Open champion Serena Williams advanced to the quarterfinals on Monday with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 16 seed Ana Ivanovic on Arthur Ashe Stadium. "I thought she played really well," Williams said of Ivanovic's performance. "I think we could have both played a little bit better 'cause of the conditions. But I think we were just both trying to do our best."

The 13-time major champion, yet to drop a set at the tournament, played a clean match in windy conditions. "It was crazy. I didn't even go for winners at any point," said Williams. "I just tried to get it over because it was so windy. It was like, Wow. It was definitely tough. But you just have to win in all kinds of situations."

Each player started the match off well, with the 28th seeded Williams firing an ace out wide to begin and Ivanovic crushing a cross-court return winner on the second point. But after Williams held, Ivanovic was shaky in her opening service game, hitting two double faults and floating a backhand long to hand the American the break.

The Serbian, however, showed signs of the form that saw her win the French Open and attain the No. 1 ranking in 2008. For a few games, she managed to control her nerves and broke back when trailing 3-1 on her second break point opportunity after Williams netted a backhand. At 30-30 in the following game, Ivanovic unleashed back-to-back first serves to even the set at 3-3.

From there though, Williams took full control of the match. A solid forehand put Williams up 4-3, and she broke the Serbian for a second time after Ivanovic tossed in a double fault. Leading 5-3, 40-15, Williams closed out the set with a strong forehand that the 23-year-old was unable to handle.

The 29-year-old American converted an early break in the second set and maintained her advantage the rest of the way through to notch her third victory in three meetings with the Serbian. Williams was solid in all areas of her game, finishing the match with nine aces, winning 83 percent of her first service points. She also had a positive winners-to-unforced errors ratio of 16 to 12 respectively. While Ivanovic struck 20 winners, she committed 29 unforced errors and also hit eight double faults in the 74-minute defeat.

Williams increased her 2011 undefeated hard-court record to a 16-0 mark, which includes titles at Stanford and Toronto, and advances to her ninth quarterfinal at Flushing Meadows. In the final eight, Williams will take on 17th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The 20-year-old Russian, a former US Open junior champion, upended No. 7 seed Francesca Schiavone 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.

Match Facts

- Williams won 83 percent of her first serve points

- Ivanovic hit eight double faults to three aces

- The American improved to 3-0 against Ivanovic

- Williams has now reached the quarters or better in nine of her 12 US Open appearances

Arthur Ashe Stadium - Women's Singles - 4th Round
Serena Williams USA (28) 6 6
Ana Ivanovic SRB (16) 3 4

An Interview With: Serena Williams

Monday, September 5, 2011

Q. How would you describe the challenge that you had out there today playing?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I thought she played really well. I think we could have both played a little bit better 'cause of the conditions. But I think we were just both trying to do our best.

Q. After the success you had this summer, how has your play here so far matched your expectations coming in?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Okay. You know, I'm still here in the tournament, so that's pretty good. You know, I just came in here, you know, just trying to do my best. I definitely don't want to peak too soon.

Q. What have you been most satisfied with?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think my movement has been pretty good, but other than that, I can improve a lot of the different things.

Q. How funky was it out there?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It was crazy. I didn't even go for winners at any point. I just tried to get it over because it was so windy. It was like, Wow. It was definitely tough.

Q. Unlike any other stadium?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. Just kind of swirls down there. But, you know, you just have to win in all kinds of situations.

Q. A lot of players talk about rankings. Do you worry about that, that this is the US Open?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I don't think about it too much. I haven't played in a year, so I think it's quite impressive that I'm 28 after about five tournaments, so... If anything, I look at it as kind of cool.

Q. Still, a few years ago during the European circuit when another player was No. 1, you said, Hey, we all know who the No. 1 player in the world is. Do you think we have the situation like that where you are the best player in the world now?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I don't know. Like I don't know if I'm the best or not. I believe I am and I think a lot of other girls, women in the locker room, believe they are, too, as they should. I don't think anyone should go out and say that they're not. If you're talking about self belief, then yeah.

Q. How well do you know Spike Lee?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I know Spike really, really well. We're really good friends. We always hang out in Florida. We always try to do lunch or dinner sometimes. His parents actually live in Palm Beach, literally down the street. I've been there a few times. He and his wife are great.

Q. Does he play at all?

SERENA WILLIAMS: He does. We hit together once or twice before. He's good.

Q. Being No. 1, was that a specific goal of yours or was it win all the tournaments and the ranking will follow?

SERENA WILLIAMS: My goal is always just to win the tournaments and the ranking will come, you know, 'cause for me it's about titles and stuff like that. You know, the ranking will be there. I'll get there. You can't take the ranking with you when you retire, but you can definitely take the titles and the trophies.

Q. Favorite Spike Lee movie?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I don't want to say. I think he would be angry.

Q. The first point of the match you won with an ace. The second point she ripped that service return for a winner. Did that kind of wake you up?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No. Actually last time I played her was in Dubai. It was years ago. She played a similar game, so I was kind of expecting that.

Q. Did the loss to Bartoli at Wimbledon, has that served as a special kind of motivation?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, definitely. I mean, Bartoli's a really good player. I thought she played really well in that match. But I also thought I could have done better, prepared better, and do a lot of things better. So, yeah.

Q. You talked about titles. There's still two players that have more singles titles than you. Does that motivate you?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Is it Venus and Kim?

Q. Yes.

SERENA WILLIAMS: I guess. I don't have any more space. I mean, I have a new house in L.A. I created a karaoke room, so I can't put trophies in there. The other area, the gentleman's lounge, is kinda packed with vintage things I got at a flea market, which is really cool. In Florida, forget it. Venus and I, there's just no more space. I would love to keep winning them. But we're like, Oh, what are we going to do with this one?

Q. It doesn't appear that there's any facet of your game that needs work at the moment. You don't seem to have a weakness right now. In your mind, is there anything in particular you want to see improve?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think there's so much I can do better. I think, to be honest, the last two matches I wasn't completely satisfied with the way I played. I felt like I could have played a lot better, so there's a lot I can improve on.

Q. Is it you felt like you could hit a particular stroke a lot better or competed generically better?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Definitely a couple strokes and definitely could compete better, yeah.

Q. Back to Spike Lee, what is he like on court when he's hitting a tennis ball?

SERENA WILLIAMS: He's crazy. He wants to win more than I do. He's like, Hit to me really hard. I'm like, I can't hit to you really hard. I'm going to break your racquet if I do. He's like, No, go your hardest. I'm like, Really? He's actually really good. He's like really, really intense. I'm a little intimidated. Calm down, calm down.

Q. Can he be as funny in person as he is on the screen?

SERENA WILLIAMS: He loves debates. Whenever we're at dinner, he's looking for a debate. You have to join in and pick a side. I always try to pick an opposite side so it can just be a debate. It's fun though. I love it.

Q. Ana said you were intimidating. Do you try to be intimidating out there?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. I walk out there, do the Crip walk and try to intimidate them (laughter). No, I don't try. I just am. I am who I am. I don't know whether that's intimidating or not. I am just me.

Q. What happens in that karaoke room? Do you go in and sing yourself?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Man, good question. We sing our hearts out. We've sung till 8:00 in the morning. I was like, Oh, my God, the sun's coming out. I look out and see the sun. We keep singing and singing and singing and singing. It's magical.

Q. New stuff, old stuff?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Everything. I'm big into the '80s and '90s. Sometimes I'll start raping some of the latest songs. Just depends what's out. My favorite thing to karaoke is definitely Rihanna. She is my favorite artist to karaoke.

Q. Is there video of you doing this?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Is there video (laughter)? I'm going to start posting some on my website. I mean, I'm a little nervous because my voice isn't the best. My performances are probably the best. I do a full routine. It's amazing.

Q. You keep saying you're happy to be here. At what point in the second week do you only get happy if you win?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think I've surpassed that point. I think I've always kind of been there. Subconsciously, in the back of my head, I'm a person that really hates to lose. I put a lot of work into this. A loss would be disappointing. However, I can't get too upset. It's really important for me just to look at the mountain and keep climbing it, not get discouraged.

Q. You talked a moment ago about your movement. When did you feel that was starting to kick in for you since you came back in June?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Uhm, I don't know. When I was in Toronto, I felt like I was moving well. That court was really slow, so it enabled me to move pretty well, too. So probably then.

Q. Do you feel like you're moving as well as you were a year ago at this point?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Probably, yeah, yeah.

Q. What are the keys to your serve and how would you describe it as a weapon in your game?

SERENA WILLIAMS: My serve, I think I just have confidence in it. It's a weapon. Like I'm just like, Okay, I'm going to hit an ace here. I hit an ace. Okay, ace up the T. That's how I serve.

Q. How do you do it?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I honestly don't know. I don't know. Now, it doesn't always happen. Like in the last game today, I thought, Man, I wish I could hit four aces, and it didn't happen. But, uhm, yeah, I don't know. That's I guess confidence.

Q. When you see footage of your own serve, what goes through your mind as you watch it?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I feel kind of like lazy. I feel like it's like, you know, I don't do much and I kind of go slow, and then all of a sudden I hit it. I look at Venus' serve, I think it's so drastically different. I just think about all the times we served together, when did we go separate ways. It's kind of weird.

Q. What makes yours so effective, do you think?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Consistency. I don't hit it 120s all the time. I mean, I can, but I don't.

Q. So you say you just keeping on climbing the mountain. Is the mountain closer to Mt. Everest or more like Henman Hill?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I think I'd like to say it's a bigger mountain like Everest. It's something you can always reach and achieve whether I'm playing tennis or doing something else. I don't ever want to get to the top of the mountain. I want to keep being able to reach something, so... I like it.

Q. Are you going to go to any games with Spike?

SERENA WILLIAMS: That's another thing we argue about. I'm a Miami Heat fan and Dolphins fan. I support the Heat. He supports the Knicks. We always argue about that one.

Women's Singles 
Round 4
Arthur Ashe Stadiu
An Interview With: Ana Ivanovic

Monday, September 5, 2011

Q. What's the most difficult thing about playing Serena?

ANA IVANOVIC: Today was kind of wind. I mean, it was really gusty out there, and in the wind it's always gonna be even tougher. In those kind of conditions, serve is the shot that it's gonna go away from both players because of the conditions. You know, it did a bit. My serve broke down little more than hers did. I still created lots of opportunities and I felt I was stepping up a lot, and I just felt that was the biggest difference today.

Q. After the Azarenka match, she said that when Serena is on a roll and really playing well, the best way she can describe it for the opponent is painful. When Serena is on her game at her best, how would you describe it?

ANA IVANOVIC: It is definitely tough. You know, you have both coming from either side, just, you know, sort of looking at the winners. But I think at that time you have to step up a little more and try to, you know, take it up to her and maybe try to get her out of her rhythm. You know, I didn't feel like I was getting blown off the court today. I really felt I created a lot of opportunities even for myself. But, you know, she did play well. Like I said, I felt her serve held up more than mine did, and that was the difference.

Q. What do you think the chances are for other players as Serena moves on in the tournament?

ANA IVANOVIC: As I said even before the match, I think she's the favorite for the tournament. She's been playing really well, and it's gonna be tough, you know. But also, you know, the conditions are different and every match is different, so you have to raise your level. She's doing that, so, yeah, I think she has good chance.

Q. In addition to Serena's power and her strokes, she can often be a very intimidating opponent. In the first set I think to go up 4-3 she fended off a break point, and for the first time really screamed, Come on. Did that episode rattle you or affect you? In general, how do you think you did with sort of the mind games or the psychology of facing her today?

ANA IVANOVIC: Not at all. I mean, I was screaming some "Come ons." She does try to intimidate. She stays close to the baseline so you feel like you have no space to hit to. That's something I expected going into the match. I really try not to look so much across the net. I just tried to focus on my game and tried to do everything that I can. I mean, I started off with lot of unforced errors, but I did have to be aggressive. It sort of came together a little bit throughout the match. I did have opportunities, as I said, even in that first set; and then in the second set 1-2 down I had opportunities. So, you know, I really feel it was kind of close match.

Q. You might still be out there if your serve had been going better, it seems. What was it with the serves? Is it the wind or are you disappointed with the way you served?

ANA IVANOVIC: My serve is getting better, and it's on the way of becoming weapon. But like I was talking, it still has lot of more work to be done on it. Today it was even more challenging with this wind. Even tossing ball without wind is hard enough. It's just how it is, and I really feel there was a lot of positives out there. Like I said, even with my base game not being at the level I want it to be, I still felt I had opportunities.

Q. Is it difficult for you to catch your toss? You've always had, it seems, a problem with tossing. But in these conditions you didn't seem to catch your toss even when it was going way out to the right.

ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, I know. I know. I do have problems with that. Because I feel kind of bad stopping, but that's my problem. (Laughter.)

Q. Once again, we have a tournament where Serbians have done incredibly well. You have been asked this a million times, but please, what makes Serbian tennis so good?

ANA IVANOVIC: I really -- it's hard to say, but I think once a few players come up, the generation sort of follows. It's been great to have so many players playing so well. I saw Janko had a win. It's really exciting. People back home are very thrilled, and they wake up in the middle of the night to watch our matches. We always get messages of support, which is great. That's something that also motivates us.

Q. On court, is there anything in particular, a certain kind of toughness or part of the game on court that is common to Serbs?

ANA IVANOVIC: Well, I think Serbians actually have quite a combustible character, so it's very -- I don't know. Maybe that's good for tennis. Maybe that's something that drives us. But sometimes we can have fired up emotions out there.

Q. Serena is considered to have one of the best serves in the women's game. But on second serve you were standing way inside the baseline to receive her. Is that what you normally do with her or with others?

ANA IVANOVIC: I do. I really try to step up, especially on the second serve and sometimes even on the first serve. But like I said, I felt that was my opportunity to take the ball early and to put her under pressure straightaway. And also, considering, you know, that there was so much wind, you can't go full out on your serve because you toss the ball and it moves all over the place. That's something I tried to really use and tried to, you know, think maybe even stepping up more.

Q. If Novak does indeed advance to play Janko in the next round, do you have any insight into the emotions into Davis Cup teammates, two Serbians who know each other well playing each other? Are you generally supportive of one another? Will that, do you think, be a difficult dynamic?

ANA IVANOVIC: I think the guys, they have really good relationship with each other. I don't know if Novak and Janko played many times against each other, but I know Novak and Troicki, there was a period where they played every week against each other. It's always tough to play someone from your own country. And especially from my point of view, I mean, we don't have too many girls out there. You know, I didn't play Bojanna yet, but when I play Jelena it's always tough because it's a lot more emotional and you're not used to it. But I'm sure they'll be a great match.

Q. What would you say Novak's year and his Wimbledon championship mean to Serbia?

ANA IVANOVIC: It's huge. I mean, I don't know if you have seen the celebration after he got back. It's amazing. Wimbledon, it's the most traditional Grand Slam, and in Serbia they still call tennis white sport, you know, because of how it's been played in the past. It's huge. You know, to have him win that made Serbia very proud.

Q. If he were to win it here, what do you think it would mean?

ANA IVANOVIC: It would be amazing, because then he's, you know, going for all four eventually. I think Grand Slam is a Grand Slam. You just want that victory.

Q. Novak, talk about his role in Serbia. Is he the most important person in Serbia?

ANA IVANOVIC: Over the president? (Laughter.) Well, I think he's definitely most famous person, you know. We do have so many followers. I mean, tennis, it became the No. 1 sport in Serbia. No matter how old the person is, they know about, you know, Novak or Janko or Viktor or myself or Jelena. It's exciting, I think. You know, that's what drives young kids to take up sport.

Q. He's known for his whackiness, his jokes. When did you realize this guy was special? Do you have an early story you could share with us?

ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, I played with him tournaments under 10 and under 12 back home in Serbia, so we do go a long way. He always was joker, always making impersonations and laughing and trying to pull jokes. One of the first professional tournaments that we played together, I think was in 's Hertogenbosch in Holland and he was in the player lounge doing impersonations of all these players. I said, Come on, do an impersonation of me, and then he started like banging his leg against the floor. I was like, Do I really do that? It was kind of embarrassing, but it was fun.

Q. Has he ever done your fist pump?

ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, of course. Even the guy in Starbucks did that. (Laughter.)

Q. Have you and Nigel talked about where you're gonna set up like your training base for the rest of the year?

ANA IVANOVIC: Well, it's, you know, early days, but we did talk a little bit about off season of course, because that's something that has to be planned. But, you know, we gonna be a little bit between, you know, Spain and England and just see how it goes.

Q. Not having great results so far this season, what do you take away from the Open? It looked like you were pretty confident out there today.

ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, I think I had quite good summer considering from where I came. I did put a lot of hard work and lot of efforts. It's good to see that paying off. I'm still aware I have to work a lot, but, you know, the base game, it's kind of there. I gained a lot more confidence from winning a lot more matches. And also, you know, my serve is improving, which is kind of important, especially in today's game. But, yeah, no, it's exciting times. We are looking, with Nigel and Scott we are looking at big picture and what I have to do to get better and back to the top. But, you know, winning a lot more matches definitely does help with confidence.

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