Jelena Jankovic was not making anything easy for herself. The 30-year-old began her grass season hoping to regroup from her shock round one defeat at the French Open to Bulgarian qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva, and she seemed to be back on the right track in -s’Hertogenbosch. Unfortunately, prior to her semi final match against Belinda Bencic, Jankovic hurt her back, impairing her movement against a very tactically astute WTA Rising Star. After being eliminated in the third round of the Aegon International by eventual champion Angelique Kerber, the Serb headed straight to SW19 to prepare for the third Grand Slam of the season. After a week long of training, Jankovic was ready to go. In her opener, the former world number one met Elena Vesnina, which turned out to be one of the fiercest battles of the entire tournament. After splitting sets, the match had to go right down to the wire, with Jankovic grabbing a decisive break when it really mattered to win 10-8 in the third. Two days later, the Serb needed another three setter to come out on the winning end, taking out Evgeniya Rodina to set up a clash with defending champion Petra Kvitova.
Kvitova, on the other hand, was breezing through her title defence. In her opening round match, the two-time Wimbledon champion needed just 35 minutes to dispatch Kiki Bertens, which ultimately turned out to be the shortest match of the WTA season. More of the same came in Kvitova’s second round match against Kurumi Nara as she thrashed the Japanese number one in 57 minutes to set up a third round clash with Jankovic.
The match began much like Kvitova’s preceding rounds where she lost just three games in two matches. Jankovic was able to muster three games in one set but the Czech was just too good, taking the opening set 6-3 and looking seemingly at home on the grass.
More of the same followed in the early stages of the second set as Kvitova’s fast, flat and deep ball gave Jankovic little to no rhythm, forcing error after error out of the Serb. After grabbing another break to go up 6-3, 3-1, the defending champion looked to be on course for another second week showing at SW19. However, Jankovic had other ideas. Mixing up the pace and adding more variety to her shots, the 30-year-old began to get more balls back, making Kvitova hit that extra ball. More times than not, getting that extra ball back would force an error out of the Czech, eventually resulting in the Serb’s resurgence halfway through the match. Winning six of the next eight games, Jankovic’s simple tactical change seemed to work wonders as she took the second set 7-5.
The third set was an extremely tight affair with both players having their fair share of ups and downs but it was Jankovic, who just seemed to win the majority of the mini battles, waring down Kvitova with every passing rally. In the end, the former world number one just found that extra gear when she needed it most, one that the defending champion was unable to find through her fatigue. On match point, Kvitova netted a backhand down the line, thus sealing a shock 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win for the Serb.
"I'm overwhelmed. I'm so excited," Jankovic said shortly after the match. "My heart is pumping."
"Playing on grass is very difficult for me - it doesn't come naturally. But playing on Centre Court against the defending champion was just unbelievable. I'm really, really happy to win this match!"
"It didn't matter how badly I was playing or what was happening out there, I really just tried to stay one point at a time and fight, and when I won that second set, I knew I just had to keep going out there."
"When I won, I couldn't believe what just happened. I lost to Petra the last time we played in Rome, and I know she plays amazing here. But that's what this sport is all about. It's such a great excitement for me - I'm so glad I was able to win and this gives me a lot of confidence the rest of the tournament."
Kvitova was asked to explain what she thought had gone awry while leading by a set and a break.
"I'm not really sure what happened out there," she said. "I was kind of up in the second set, and then suddenly I felt like she was coming back and playing a little bit more aggressive. Suddenly from my side, I didn't have an answer for it - my serve didn't help me, either."
"I was really struggling with each shot that I played from there."
Just a little over a month later, Kvitova returned to action at the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Toronto and revealed that she has been diagnosed with mononucleosis a few weeks after her loss to Jankovic.