By Jane Voigt
October 26, 2013 — Li Na stood strong, mentally and physically, in her victory over Petra Kvitova. She was rewarded with her first-ever berth in a WTA Year-ending Championships plus a year-ending career-high ranking at No. 3. She is a perfect 4-0 for the week.
Serena Williams, in contrast, took everyone on an emotional roller coaster ride throughout her victory over Jelena Jankovic. The American No. 1 seed ends her week at 4-0, just like Li Na, and will come to rest at No. 1 for the year.
The two will face off tomorrow in the final. One will earn $2.2 million, the pot of gold at the end of the season’s WTA rainbow. They are the oldest players in the draw.
If only the Serena match had been easier to witness, all would be well in tennis land. But her dour facial expressions, no matter if she was ahead or behind, were troublesome and childish. Her grimace left fans flat, wondering about an injury, and at one point whistling in frustration at Williams.
In her one-court interview, though, she told the packed Sinan Erdem arena, “I think my body’s a bit tired. I hit a wall yesterday. Honestly, I can’t believe I’m still in tournament.” A bad attitude day.
Lindsay Davenport and Brett Haber, calling the match for Tennis Channel, speculated that Serena’s back could be sore — the week’s competition is tough on everyone — and it was injured earlier in the season. Twitter was alive with speculation, too. Maybe a family issue had unnerved Serena.
Immediately after the match, Doug Robson of USA Today posted a comment from Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena’s coach and boyfriend. “Mouratoglou says Serena Williams had no injury when she tool court and doesn’t know shy she looked hobbled and out of it at times.”
Bottom line, Serena was in a mood and struggled. And, as champions do, she won. It was her hardest match of the week.
“No, physically, I think I was fine,” she said in her press conference. “Or, I don’t know. I was so tired. I was so tired just even standing. I really had to pull myself through that match.”
At one point, the average speed of her serve was below that of Jankovic. Williams movement side-to-side was nonexistent. However, she continued to control the match as much as possible from the center of the baseline — a demonstration of a dollop of conviction and skill, no matter her cranky and arrogant attitude.
“No, there was no emotional,” she told a reporter that questioned her state of mind. “I was just physically really tired. My legs wouldn’t move. My arm wouldn’t go fast.”
Her 64 26 64 win over Jankovic was Williams’ first three-set match since 2007, when her big sister, Venus Williams, grabbed some glory. However,this semifinal match left Serena 20-2 against top ten players for the year, the two loses coming from Victoria Azarenka.
Li Na was all smiles, an endearing posture from the Chinese heroine. In her third appearance at the WTA Year-ending Championships she had advanced to her first final, defeating Petra Kvitova 64 62. “Top three was goal for the year,” she told Catrina Adams on court. “So [I am] happy I could catch that.”
She becomes the highest ranked player ever from Asia.
Carlos Rodriguez, her coach, saluted Li’s win by raising three fingers high in the air from the player’s box. Another goal from Rodriguez is for Li to “unlock yourself and play freely with enthusiasm,” a reported said. However, her early training in China contradicts this Western behavior where everything was predicated on hard-nosed work ethic. No congratulations with a victory, just a shove to get more victories.
“I was really happy today at the start of the match,” Li said to the WTA. “This tournament, for me, like exciting, nervous, relax, and focus. You know, have to be in the same time.”
Serena Williams leads 9-1 in their head-to-head competition. But if attitude plays a part in their final tomorrow, Li will walk away with the Billie Jean King trophy.