Why Jelena Jankovic Couldn't Stop Smiling At Wimbledon
LONDON -- She opened defense of her Wimbledon singles title with a 35-minute victory in which she lost just one point on serve. Through the first two rounds, she had dropped just three games combined. And after one set and two service breaks in the second against No. 28 seed Jelena Jankovic Saturday, Petra Kvitova looked well on her way to contending for a third title here.
But Jankovic -- whose last four exits here have been first round, second round, first round, first round -- went from hopeless to methodically chipping away at Kvitova for the eventual 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 upset.
"I cannot stop smiling," Jankovic said. "I'm really, really happy. I don't know how to explain. But it's a really big win for me, especially playing on Centre Court against a two-time champion, a Wimbledon champion. It's really amazing."
Most thought Kvitova would challenge Serena Williams for the title, but Williams struggled mightily to escape Heather Watson in a third-round match Friday night, and Kvitova suffered her earliest loss here since a first-round exit in 2009.
Since 2009, she had been the toughest out here of any woman on tour, advancing to two quarterfinals, one semifinal and titles in 2011 and 2014. And Kvitova made no secret of the fact that Wimbledon was not only her best tournament but her favorite, though she had trouble expressing just how special it was after winning her second title last year, saying, "It's something more, more, more."
On Saturday, the 25-year-old Czech had similar trouble putting into words just how disappointed she was with a loss that will knock her out of the No. 2 spot in the rankings, replaced by either Maria Sharapova or Caroline Wozniacki.
"[Wimbledon] is why I'm playing tennis ..., " she said. "Not to be in the second week of the favorite tournament for me is really sad. I don't really know what I can say. That's it."
As much as Kvitova loves the grass, Jankovic has been open about her dislike and even fear of the surface. But the 30-year-old Serb said she changed her plan this year.
"Maybe one of the reasons I made myself think that I cannot play on grass [is] because the last couple of years I've not done well here," Jankovic said. "One of the reasons is because I never played a warm-up tournament before.
"So I would just come from French Open. I would come here and wouldn't know what I'm doing on grass. It's happening so fast. The points are going so fast. Before I know it, I'm out of the court."
Ironically, while Jankovic may not possess the raw power of Kvitova, she does have a good game for the surface with her athleticism and mobility. And Jankovic is, in fact, tied for second, in tournament aces with 28.
American Madison Keys, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over Tatjana Maria Saturday to advance to the second week of the second Grand Slam of her career, is in the lead with 42 aces.
"I'm right up there," Jankovic said. "It's unbelievable. Maybe my serve is not as fast as some of those big girls. But if I'm hitting my spots, it's quite effective. ... Now I laugh when I see myself doing those serves ... back in the years."
Still, back in the years, Jankovic was the year-end No. 1 in 2008, reaching the finals of the US Open that year along with the semis of the Australian and French.
"I'm very determined," she said. "I want to get to where I think I belong. I've done it in the past. I've been many years in the top 10, I've been No. 1 in the world, I've played against all these players.
"Just if I'm able to work hard and believe in myself, hopefully my time will come again."