WTA Indian Wells: Venus Williams suffers injury scare but produces improbable comeback to defeat Jelena Jankovic

WTA Indian Wells: Venus Williams suffers injury scare but produces improbable comeback to defeat Jelena Jankovic

Venus Williams saved three match points and came from 1-6, 1-4 down to defeat Jelena Jankovic in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open, progressing to the third round after a magnificent comeback.

don-han
Don Han

The second round of the BNP Paribas Open saw a battle between two former world number ones as Jelena Jankovic faced off against Venus Williams. It turned out to be a thrilling match between two veterans as Williams created an improbable comeback despite being injured, saving three match points to triumph in three sets.

Williams came into the match with an abundance of strapping on her left thigh and right elbow, showing some hints of a possible injury. It turned out to look so as Williams was barely able to serve properly, with the speed of her serves barely passing the 80 mph mark. Also, the Australian Open finalist seemed to be hampered by her lingering left thigh injury that started to bother her during the tournament in St. Petersburg which caused her to be on the losing end against Kristina Mladenovic, the eventual champion. 

Venus Williams drinks from her bottle during a changeover | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Venus Williams drinks from her bottle during a changeover | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Williams affected by injuries

Jankovic had the perfect start to the match, taking advantage of Williams’ injuries to break to love in the opening game of the match within less than a minute, taking the early lead. Since her movements were limited, Williams had to rely on her powerful groundstrokes to win points for her and that tactic proved to be effective for a little while as she broke straight back to return level despite obviously not looking at her best. With her second serves being very vulnerable, Jankovic made them a source of target and attacked them whenever an opportunity arises, and therefore breaking serve once more to regain the lead.

This time, Jankovic was able to consolidate the break as she managed to move Williams around the court with the help of her solid groundstrokes and extended her lead to two games. The elder Williams sister started to look furthermore uncomfortable on the court as she was unable to run around to retrieve Jankovic’s shots and her relatively slow serves cost her yet another break, and soon she found herself down 1-5 as the Serbian managed to consolidate the break once more. Unforced errors started to overwhelm Williams as she lost her serve for the fourth time in a row to lose the first set 6-1 after just a mere 20 minutes of play.

It was all Jelena Jankovic in the first set | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
It was all Jelena Jankovic in the first set | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Williams creates magnificent comeback; steals the second set

The momentum was carried over to the second set for Jankovic as she earned a nervy service hold to get the second set started, with Williams showing some signs of revival as she went up 0-30 but was unable to find a break point opportunity. Williams then had an encouraging service game as she had her first service hold of the day, coming from 0-30 down to do so. It seemed as though Jankovic would be strolling to the victory after she held her serve to 15 and made the first breakthrough of the second set by breaking serve, leading by a set and a break.

After extending her lead to 4-1, Jankovic looked to inflict further misery on Williams as she earned a break point opportunity in the sixth game but failed to convert after she hit a passing forehand shot wide, eventually allowing the 12th seed to narrowly hold onto her service game. This was when Williams stepped up her game and started to mount a huge comeback, rattling three games in a row to take the lead on the scoreboard for the first time in the match.

Jelena Jankovic lost her momentum and confidence after the sixth game in the second set | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Jelena Jankovic lost her momentum and confidence after the sixth game in the second set | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Having the golden opportunity to serve out the second set, Jankovic came up with some great returns as Williams played a very sloppy game, leveling the scores at 5-5. After holding serve comfortably, the Australian Open finalist now had to serve to stay in the match. It was tough luck for Williams as she was faced with match point opportunities for Jankovic within a blink of an eye, but the American maintained her composure and played freely as she saved all three match points with some relatively inspiring tennis, with the reward being a tiebreak in the second set instead of a loss had she not held her serve.

The win once again looked to be in Jankovic’s hands as she ran out to a formidable 5-2 lead in the tiebreak, but what happened next was certainly unexpected. With her determination and never-say-die attitude, Williams stormed to level the match as she produced some excellent tennis to snatch five points in a row to seal the tiebreak and surprisingly bring the match into the tiebreak after saving a break point down 1-6, 1-4 and saving three match points in the twelfth game of the set.  

Venus Williams stormed back to win the second set | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Venus Williams stormed back to win the second set | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Williams strolls to the victory

With renewed confidence and her serve improving gradually as the match progressed, Williams had her first comfortable service hold of the day to get off to a perfect start in the final set. Jankovic then started to misfire almost every single shot as she gifted a service break to the American, falling behind an early deficit as now it was Williams who looked like the favorite to close out the match. The elder Williams sister then consolidated the break of serve with yet another easy service hold and seemed to be cruising her way to the victory as she started to play freely without pressure.

There was a second consecutive break of serve for Williams as Jankovic continued to look out of sorts, with the American running away with a double break lead in her hands. The Serbian finally got onto the scoreboard in the final set when she got one of the breaks back as Williams started to shift her focus a bit and made several unforced errors. Nevertheless, she did not seem to be affected by the loss of her service game as she made an immediate reply to regain the four-game lead and place herself just one game away from the victory, having the chance to serve out the match. Williams did just so, completing the huge comeback with her first ace of the day on match point after just 1 hour and 48 minutes of play, sealing a place in the third round.

Venus Williams managed to adapt to her injuries as the match progressed | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Venus Williams managed to adapt to her injuries as the match progressed | Photo: Harry How/Getty Images North America

Match Stats

The impact of Williams’ injuries can be seen in the first set when she won none of her second serve points and only winning a total of two points off her service. Meanwhile, Jankovic won a total of 26 points in the set, more than thrice as much as what the American managed to win in the set. The start of the second set was more of a similar story as compared to the first set, but a late resurgence from the American allowed her to win the same number of points with Jankovic in the set, having a large improvement on her second service.

The final set was once again similar to the first set, but this time it was Jankovic who was the one having the poorer statistics as she won 0 points behind her first service, a statistic worth noting for. Serving 78% of first serves in, Williams took the final set easily and sealed up the win in just 108 minutes. It was generally an erratic match played by both players, as they combined for a total of just 38 winners and a huge amount of 78 unforced errors in the match.

Both players meet at the net after the match | Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America
Both players meet at the net after the match | Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America

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