DEFENDING champion Petra Kvitova was hustled out by former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic yesterday as the Serbian savoured rare Wimbledon success.
Although she won the mixed doubles with Jamie Murray in 2007, singles at the grass-court grand slam has been a perpetual struggle for Jankovic who has never gone beyond the fourth round.
She is back at that stage now, for the fifth time in her career, after a dramatic 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Kvitova.
A set down, a break down, and facing two more break points on her serve, it seemed that Jankovic was heading out, but incredibly she turned the contest around and it was Kvitova whose game was crumbling come the final points.
Jankovic said: “I can’t stop smiling. I’m really, really happy. I don’t know how to explain it. But it’s a really big win for me, especially playing on Centre Court against a two-time Wimbledon champion. It’s really amazing.”
Kvitova, the champion of 2011 and 2014, said it would take “a few days, a few weeks maybe” to get over the result.
The Czech left no doubt about who she fancies for the title: not her conqueror, but the Grand Slam-hunting Serena Williams, even after the American’s travails on Friday against Britain’s Heather Watson.
“I heard it was a great fight from both of them,” Kvitova said. “I think that Serena sometimes needs kind of this fight during the tournament. So she’s still a big favourite.”
Caroline Wozniacki is another one-time world No.1 who has never been beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon. Like Jankovic, she will have the chance to banish that statistic tomorrow.
Wozniacki was watched by skiing champion Lindsey Vonn – known in some quarters as the former partner of Tiger Woods – as she posted a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Italian Camila Giorgi on Court One, and faces Garbine Muguruza of Spain next.
Danish player Wozniacki has been a runner-up twice at the US Open and is puzzled by her Wimbledon record.
“There’s no reason why I shouldn’t have been able to make it past the fourth round,” the fifth seed said.
“I’ve had some tough fourth rounds here. I’ve won Eastbourne. I’ve won the juniors here. I feel very comfortable on the grass and I love playing here.”
Wozniacki is also a close friend of world No.1 Serena Williams, who tackles sister Venus in the fourth round tomorrow. “I don’t know how it is playing a sister, since I don’t have one,” Wozniacki said. “It must be tough for them. At the same time one of them is going to get through to the quarter-finals. They’re both playing well, so it’s going to be a good match, I’m sure.”
It was a bad day for Germany in the women’s singles, as their three remaining hopes tumbled out. Former semi-finalist Angelique Kerber was dismissed in three sets by Muguruza, who won 7-6 (14/12), 1-6, 6-2 against the 10th seed. Tatjana Maria then went the same way, brushed aside 6-4, 6-4 by 20-year-old American Madison Keys, who is through to the fourth round for the first time.
Former Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki also made a third-round exit, crushed 6-3, 6-2 at the merciless hands of Swiss Timea Bacsinszky. Romanian Monica Niculescu tackles Bacsinszky next after recording a 6-3, 7-5 success against Kristyna Pliskova.
Agnieszka Radwanska, the Polish player who was runner-up to Serena Williams three years ago, beat Australian Casey Dellacqua 6-1, 6-4 and she stands next in line for Jankovic, while Olga Govortsova enjoyed a flag day as she reached the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time.
Govortsova’s debut in the majors came eight years ago at Wimbledon, with this her 31st appearance in a main draw, and a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 win against Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova provided the 26-year-old with a career breakthrough.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams believes Wimbledon fans will throw their support behind Venus when the two five-time champions square up tomorrow.
The grand slam supremos will play for the 26th time in 17 years, after Serena squeaked past Watson and Venus defeated Aleksandra Krunic to reach the last 16.
Serena admitted “I would be rooting for Venus” should she be just a face in the crowd, after her older sister’s battles with auto-immune disease Sjogren’s syndrome. The 33-year-old also hailed 35-year-old Venus as the Williams sibling in the better form, hinting at a titanic fourth-round tussle tomorrow.
“I expect more people to be rooting for Venus,” said Serena. “I would be rooting for Venus. She’s been through so much. She’s had a wonderful story. She’s been so inspiring; she’s just an incredible individual.
“She’s just so amazing. She’s been so inspiring to a lot of people with the same things that she goes through, too.”
Serena boasts 14 wins to Venus’ 11 in the siblings’ head to head, including four Wimbledon finals and a semi-final. While Serena is gunning for the calendar grand slam, Venus is seeks her first Wimbledon title since 2008.
Grand slam duels have never sat easy with the Williams sisters’ family bonds, and Serena admitted time has not eased those conflicting emotions. “It’s unfortunate that it’s so soon,” she said.