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Jelena Jankovic beat a strangely subdued Serena Williams to get to the semifinals at the Australian Open.

Jelena Jankovic beat Serena Williams in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open by the score of 6-3, 6-4, and it was the strangest match I’ve seen in a very long time. Serena was out to lunch but we don’t know why.

After winning the first two games of the match, Serena lost four straight. She wasn’t getting to balls and her movement was awkward. Did she have an injury? Was she upset that the Green Bay Packers didn’t make it to the Super Bowl? I mean, what was the problem?

Her trainer said she received treatment earlier in the day on her quadriceps but she seemed surprised that Serena was struggling. If you’re struggling with your lower extremities, Jelena is the wrong player to take on. Her serve is weak and she doesn’t generate a lot of power on her own but she can track anything down.

With Jelena serving at 4-3 in the first set, Serena hit four straight shots that would have finished off most players. At the end of the point Jelena hit a strange short hop slice that went wide, otherwise it would have take Serena four or five more shots to win that point.

In the next game, Serena bent awkwardly and swiped at a ball as if it was uncomfortable to bend over. Two points later she put a sitter right into the net to lose the first set.

Then an even stranger thing happened: Jelena, not Serena, called for a trainer at 3-2 in the second set after she felt a sharp stab in her quadriceps. If Serena had a quadriceps problem, why wasn’t she getting treatment for it? Instead, she received treatment for a blister on her toe.

I now officially censure myself for having doubted Jelena. I had her practically sliding down the rankings because Ana Ivanovic passed her and Maria Sharapova looks like she’s healthy again. I miscalculated Jelena’s heart.

She somehow managed to hold on and win a 22 game third set in her first round match and struggle through another three set match in the third round even though she is beset with injuries. When someone asked her to list her injuries she said, “I cannot give you all the details, because if I would begin I would never stop.”

How does she do it? She has fun. Look at these comments from her post-match media session:

Q. All that twisting the trainer does with your leg, does that give you relief, or are you going to have to get a new leg before the tournament is over?
JELENA JANKOVIC: I think I need to change my oil and my wheels. They’re a little bit old.

And this:
Q. You said you were looking forward to your day off. Is there anything that takes your mind off tennis during those nearly 48 hours?
JELENA JANKOVIC: [My friends] keep telling me they want to take me on a helicopter, and they want me to drive them. I don’t know how safe is that. Actually, I did it last year in Auckland and I drove my mom and some friends in the back. They turned so pale, they were so scared. They couldn’t wait until they landed. But it’s so much fun. I love doing that, and I want to see Melbourne from the top.

At the end of the match, Pam Shriver said, “Whether it was Serena’s toe, her quad, her mood, I don’t know but something wasn’t quite right.” Serena would not let moodiness keep her from winning a slam. Her spirit wasn’t wounded, only her body. She smashed a racket in frustration and fluffed her feathers a bit when Jelena dared to upstage her.

Jelena successfully challenged a call early in the second set then smiled and waved at the crowd in her usual entertaining way. Serena followed that with a hard ace down the middle, took a few steps into the court, then slowly circled back to the baseline just to let Jelena know who she was dealing with.

Nah, it wasn’t mood, it was something else. I’m just not sure what.

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