March 2, 2009

Serena Rules The Garden: Wins BJK Cup

Serena Williams, World #1 and 2008 US Open and 2009 Australian Open Champion, defeated Ana Ivanovic in Semifinal action (6-3) and then went on to defeat sister Venus (6-4, 6-3) to win the Billie Jean King Cup on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. Serena refused to wilt during this match. There were some up and down moments and as she said after defeating Ana Ivanovic, "I'm used to a slow start." Given the format of the first match, Serena realized that she had to kick it in gear from the word "play." The Williams sisters gave the crowd exactly what it wanted by advancing to the championship of the one-night exhibition but Venus was never the same after she was broken in a marathon game in the first set.

The sisters were tied at 4 with Venus serving when they engaged in easily the longest game of the night. After nine deuces, Venus dumped a backhand into the net on Serena's eighth break point of the game. Serena then held to take the first set and opened the second with another break as a weary Venus struggled with her serve. "Venus is so tough, she never gives up. She was running down everything," Serena said. "Hopefully, everyone had a good time. Venus and I are so excited to be playing here at Madison Square Garden." "I tried but Serena was too good today," Venus said. "She didn't miss. I had a great time here. I wish I could have won but there's always next year. The first of many, that's what we would like."

The Garden hosted the WTA season-ending championships every year but one from 1977-2000, but the marquee event hasn't been back since. After Roger Federer beat Pete Sampras in a riveting three-setter at MSG last year, four of the top seven women's players in the world agreed to stage their own exhibition at ``the world's most famous arena.''

Serena Williams won $400,000 of the $1.2 million purse as women's tennis returned to the Garden after a nine-year absence. “Billie Jean King is one of my role models,” Serena Williams said earlier Monday. “Not only is she a role model for tennis, but she transcended that and she went to be a role model for just women’s sports in general.” Venus Williams reached the final by beating Jelena Jankovic 6-4. Former President Bill Clinton also was on hand to pay tribute to Billie Jean King, who founded the Women's Tennis Association in 1973.

The Billie Jean King Cup was part of “Tennis Night in America,” an effort by the U.S. Tennis Association to get youth registered for the sport. More than 750 tennis and community centers were signing up kids for spring and summer leagues.

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