By Jane Voigt
Daniel Island, April 5, 2014 — Andrea Petkovic cried. She was happy, though, after all her injuries, rehabs, coach changes, and today’s come-from-behind win over a tough Eugenie Bouchard in the first semifinal.
“I really don’t know why I just broke down,” Petkovic said, smiling. She had defeated Bouchard, 16 63 75. “I was happy, but normally I don’t cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m happy. So weird.”
And after a week of firsts, Jana Cepelova truly justified her victory over Serena Williams by making her first-ever WTA Tour final. She defeated Belinda Bencic 64 57 76(7).
Cepelov’s victory was a tough one because Bencic was tenacious, just as she’d been the entire week from qualifications through to her first WTA semifinal.
A disappointed Bencic leaves Billie Jean King court.
“It really hurts right now, but I am sure I will learn from this,” Bencic said, softly. “She deserved it. I cannot not be satisfied with this whole tournament. Hopefully I’ll get a lot more chances.”
Cepelova had match points in the third and more match points in the tiebreak. Yet she stayed on track, which showed a maturity beyond her years.
“To beat Serena is really confidence for me,” she said, “I learned a lot from her. I think now on these matches I won, I try to keep playing like [I’m] against Serena.”
On top of her enormous results this week, the 20-year-old is competing here without a team. Her coach, physio, and parents are home in Slovakia.
“I am here alone,” Cepelova said, calmly. “The physio from WTA help me during the match. Also, my family, my coach support me from our country. I feel it.”
When she won critical points, Jana turned to the camera nearest her and pumped her fists knowing her support watched from afar. Toward the end of the match, she drew ‘3’ into the clay. It was a reminder to herself and her far-aways that she was three games from the win.
Today’s semifinals were fantastic entertainment for the packed Billie Jean King stadium. Lots of cheers. Lots of standing ovations. Lots of on the edge-of-your-seat tennis drama.
Bouchard came out on fire, painting lines, hitting swinging volleys, and taking the ball early with consistency and ease. She didn’t need a visit from Coach Saviano to know what was what, as she closed the first set in under a half-hour.
“I played really well in the first,” Bouchard said, reflecting on her loss. “I’m just disappointed I couldn’t maintain it. It’s something I’ll work on, just more consistency.”
Petkovic’s victory was a masterly demonstration of intense concentration and execution.
“I wasn’t that upset,” Petkovic said, when asked how she felt at the end of that set. “I was serving okay, but I just lacked that 5 percent that made the huge difference.”
The No. 14 seed continued to talk pragmatically about her game, but did feel angry at times.
“Actually I’m very emotional. But I’m just trying to hide my emotions because any weakness you show, especially the top players, they just jump at you like a lion and rip you apart,” Petkovic said.
In 2011, a string of injuries began with her lower back. In Stuttgart, her first tournament from that injury, she retired when she tore all the ligaments in her right ankle. She returned to tennis late that summer.
Petkovic moves into her first final of the season and will bid for her third career title. This week has proven a big one for the German, having transitioned to a new coach on top of transitioning from hard to soft courts.
“Petar [Popovic] helped me a lot on court,” Petkovic began. “But in Grand Slams, and I really want to play well there, I want to get used to being along on the court. Eric, now, wants me to get to the place where I can analyze inside the match. So in the Grand Slams [I] sort of find the solutions.”
The last time a Premier-level tournament, or higher level, featured 3 semifinalists who were 20 or younger was 2008, Amelia Island. Maria Sharapova was 20. Dominika Cibulkova was 18; and, Alize Cornet was 18. Sharapova won that tournament and Cibulkova was the runner-up.
Petkovic and Cepelova have never met on any court surface, let alone a WTA Premier final. Additionally, Family Circle Cup will have a brand new name to add to their distinguished list of champions.