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Beyond the Baseline

Serena's sportsmanship questioned; more quotes from WTA Championships

Serena Williams Jelena Jankovic on Serena Williams (pictured): "I never saw her [play sluggishly] when she's leading." (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL — Some highlights from players' news conferences during the WTA Championships:

Li Na and Jelena Jankovic were confused that a fatigued Serena Williams got stronger as her matches progressed in the semifinals and final. "So this is the reason why she lives in Los Angeles, right?" Li joked, seemingly referring to Hollywood's acting population. "No, I mean, I don't know ‑‑ I don't know what happened with her, but when she started the match, she's already feeling like [she's going to] die. But in the final set, she can serve 180 [kmh, or 112 mph], 190 [kmh, or 118 mph]. I have no idea about this."

Jankovic was a little more forthright in her comments about Williams. "I never saw her [play sluggishly] when she's leading. Every time she has a lead, she's running for the balls and she's hitting those big serves. For some reason, every time she starts losing, she starts serving slower or not running for certain balls. That's something that as a player you have to pay attention to. It's not the first time when we played that she's doing this. That's I think her way of playing or maybe when she plays against me. I don't know.

"But when it's an important moment, huge serve comes up, so you have to be on alert every time. You never know if she's going to come slow or a really fast one. So it's not easy to focus. It's important for me to focus on my game and not really let those kind of things affect me and not allow me to play my game, but it's the way it is.

"She's the No. 1 player in the world, and she plays so well. She's by far the best player. She deserves to be in this spot. But I think it's also when you play, winning or losing, you have to be up there and be a good sportsman."

Agnieszka Radwanska was asked whether it was bad for women's tennis that Williams dominates the top five players. "Well, she's definitely really dominating now and beating everyone. It doesn't matter if someone is No. 2, 3, 4 or 10, she's winning sometimes playing [so] good that she's beating so easy even top five players. The whole year she was really playing unbelievable. For her, it doesn't matter who is standing on the other side of the court. She's just playing her best tennis. There you go." Yup, there you go.

• Don't expect to see Williams on the slopes anytime soon. "I [vacationed in the snow] once and I will never do it [again]. No, I'm a total bikini girl. I can't even breathe in high altitude. ... My insurance doesn't cover skiing accidents."

Williams won her two post-U.S. Open events, the China Open and WTA Championships. "I have always traditionally ended my year after the Open. You guys are lucky that I was able to make it out two tournaments [the China Open and WTA Championships]. That's like a record for me."

• Li says her journalism background means she can't read the news without cringing. "The funny thing is when I was finished at the university, I never read the newspaper because I can find so many mistakes. But before I came to the university, I read the newspaper a lot."

Jelena Jankovic Jelena Jankovic had some interesting exchanges with the media in Istanbul. (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Jankovic doesn't have much of a poker face. "When I have a smile on my face, I think I get more dangerous."

• Speaking about her confidence heading into her semifinal clash against Williams, Jankovic pretty much summed up her career. "There's no reason for me not to be confident. I believe in myself. I prepared very well. I enjoy myself."

• It's hard to understate coach Carlos Rodriguez's impact on not only Li's tennis but also her personal growth. "Maybe it's different, Chinese and Western, because I think the Western people, they like to share how they're feeling now. For myself, if I'm feeling something, I never try to talk to the team. I always block it. I'm always feeling I'm strong enough, I can fix everything.

"But I think this is a weakness. I think the real strong person, if they feel something, for sure, they will speak out, because they find someone who can help them to make even stronger. So that's why I was feeling terrible every time I talked to Carlos. But now I am feeling much better, because I try to open my mind a little bit to share the feelings."

Deep Thoughts, by Li Na.

• More psychoanalysis from Li: "I think when I grew up, the [reason] I cannot show how good I am is because when I won a tournament, the coach was so tough. If I make a mistake [in training], for sure she would say, 'What? You just win one tournament. Are you thinking you can win another one? Why didn't you train harder?' I think she always punished me all the time. I didn't have [confidence] to show how good I am."

• Great exchange between Jankovic and the press when she was asked if she thinks she's a better player now than she was when she was No. 1.

JELENA JANKOVIC: I don't know. What do you guys think? Am I a better player or a worse player? Technically am I'm better?

Q.  More shots, but mentally [maybe not].  Sorry.  You asked.

JELENA JANKOVIC:  Yeah, but that's one person's opinion.

Victoria Azarenka says she prefers to take a longer break after the Slams rather than shorter breaks throughout the year to refresh her mind and body. "I think it's important to have a little bit of a break after the major tournament, because you don't realize how much it takes out of you when you go that deep.  Because it's not only a one‑week event or two‑week event. It's actually a three‑weeks event because you always get there earlier, and all that drag, mentally and physically, to be able to be there at such a high level, it really takes a lot out of you, especially now with the way the tennis is physically."

Petra Kvitova was asked how she rates herself against the likes of Williams and Sabine Lisicki for pure power. "Wow. I don't know. I never played against myself, so it's quite tough to recognize it." Fair point.

Williams was asked about the potential for a WTA champion from Turkey. "There is a champion from Compton [Calif.], so anything is possible, especially from Turkey."

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