Wednesday, August 27, 2008

US 3.0- Jankovician to the Core

You just knew she'd find a way.

To wrestle drama from the seemingly routine. To create wincing moments of awkwardness from a crisp sunny New York afternoon. To ultimately survive a stress-inducing few hours, turning what could have been a fitful scowl into a weary smile of relief when all was said and done.

Otherwise, her name wouldn't be Jelena.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Yep, Jankovic was at it again on Day Three, weaving what could only be called a "Jelena Special" in a 2nd Round match against Sofia Arvidsson. Oh, Queen Chaos won... it's just the way that she did it that was so... so... so..., well, you know, Jankovician.

The star of today's story, for a while, looked to be cruising to a rather routine win, all the better as she continues to fight through lingering injuries and a lack of proper training time since Wimbledon. After all, considering her current lack of stamina, the last thing that Jankovic wanted on this day was a long, drawn out match. Too much risk, too much time for something else to go wrong.

So, of course, she had to go and make things interesting.

Up 6-3/5-4, Jankovic served for the match twice at 5-4 and 6-5. She held a match point, too. Winning in straight sets would have been too easy for her. She failed to close out the festivities either time, then headed for a tie-break with her Swedish counterpart. She led there 3-0. Then she lost six straight points, dropping the tie-break 7-5. Hello, 3rd set... where things would surely go more smoothly.

You're kidding, right?

Oh, she led the 3rd set 3-0, too. But, well, you know the script she was writing in her head. It certainly didn't include making quick work of Arvidsson now. Up a break once... twice... three times a Serbian lady, the Whirling Dervish couldn't quite bring herself to walk off the court in triumph without tempting fate a few more times.

A double-fault self-broke Jankovic's serve game, cutting her lead to 4-3. In the next game, while attempting to retrieve a short Arvidsson shot, Miss Chaotic slid across the service box, delivered a soft shot right into the Swede's wheelhouse, which was promptly delivered into the open court to claim the point. No doubt thinking, "Here I go again," Jankovic put her head down on the court, resting her face on the surface and against her forearms.

And she just stayed there, for a few uncomfortable seconds... long enough for the chair umpire to ask her if she was okay.

She was. And with the drama now at an appropriate level, she dug in and proceeded to finally take the match as she should have earlier. She held serve at love for 5-4, then held again for 6-5. After seeing Arvidsson's forehand put together nearly three dozen winners on the day, it was an errant backhand that sailed long on Jankovic's second match point that finally salted this one away, 6-3/6-7/7-5 after two hours and forty-four minutes of "pure Jelena."

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Thus, the Dervish lives to Whirl another day... she just can't help herself.

A few more of these and Jankovic will become the Big Apple cult hero she has all the ingredients to become. In fact, if this had been a night match, she might already be an Open legend... bent halo, eye-rolling drama and all.

Give her time.

The Olympic Experience is proving to be having quite different effects on those who participated in Beijing:

Gold Medalist Elena Dementieva, who admitted earlier in the week that her head was still in China, nevertheless managed to reach the 3rd Round with an easy win over Pauline Parmentier today. Silver Medalist Dinara Safina seems focused (and hopefully working on her serve in practice), and 4th Place finisher Li Na is taking advantage of a rare healthy period of her season, taking out Sara Errani 4-6/6-2/6-0 to reach the final 32 on Day Three.

But Bronze Medalist Vera Zvonareva isn't quite so happy, having been defeated rather thoroughly in her 2nd Round match by Tatiana Perebiynis, 6-3/6-3. It's good news for someone in her section of the draw, though. Likely, either Marion Bartoli or, yes, even a healthy Lindsay Davenport. Maybe the draw's going to work out for her, after all.

...meanwhile, Tamira Paszek's resurgence lasted exactly one match. She lost today to Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-1/6-2. Brit Anne Keothavong's slam surge continued as she upset #25-seed Francesca Schiavone. And Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie is at it again, knocking off #26 Anabel Medina-Garrigues. Zheng's next opponent? Jankovic, of course.

Buckle your seatbealts, it could be another bumpy ride.

...ousted in doubles today: #2 Kveta Peschke/Rennae Stubbs and #3 Chan Yung-Jan/Chuang Chia-Jung. Top-seeded Cara Black & Liezel Huber advanced, though, so their final shot at an '08 slam title lives on.

...and, finally, the aforementioned Davenport is set to make her night session debut at this tournament exactly seventeen years to the day that she made her Open debut at age 15. As long as her health holds, she should advance past Alisa Kleybanova. If not, who knows.

As for Andy Roddick... how great would it be if Fabrice Santoro could put on yet another show under the lights? I'm not exactly sure why I'm itching to see Roddick bounced early from this tournament, but I seem to be rooting for just that. So be it.

TOP QUALIFIERS: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): xxx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: #15 Olaru/ROU def. #22 Larcher de Brito/POR 6-2/6-3
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xxx
FIRST SEED OUT: #24 Shahar Peer/ISR (1st Rd.-Li Na)
IT GIRL: xxx

All for Day 3.0. More tonight and tomorrow.

UPCOMING: Backspin Time Capsule: 1991 U.S. Open


Blogger Topaz said...

Not sure if I'm remembering it correctly...but wasn't it also against Sofia Arvidsson that Jelena almost lost in the first round of Miami earlier this year? That was another very dramatic match!

Wed Aug 27, 09:03:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Yeah, after the match in her on-court interview audible to the crowd, Jankovic mentioned that she'd been down 5-1 in the 3rd set to Arvidsson then and came back to win. She made some sort of comment like "she must bring it out in me," which got a nice chuckle from the fans.

Thu Aug 28, 12:23:00 AM EDT  

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