Kanepi Shocks Jankovic in Dubai
Published February 18, 2009 12:00
DUBAI, UAE - Third seed Jelena Jankovic became the latest high profile casualty at the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships on Wednesday, falling with almost shocking ease to No.16 seed Kaia Kanepi - notwithstanding a nervy close-out by the world No.24. But Venus and Serena Williams moved a step closer to a possible semifinal encounter after both overcame their last 16 rivals; Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva and Ana Ivanovic also remained on track.
Kanepi's 62 75 defeat of Jankovic could have made even more depressing reading for the former world No.1, given the powerful Estonian led 4-0 in the second set. But having never previously beaten a Top 5 player, and with a 1-11 record against the Top 10, the significance of the looming achievement almost brought the 23-year-old unstuck.
A double fault handed one break of serve back to Jankovic, and after the Serb held her own delivery, she set up two break points in Kanepi's next service game - which would have put the contest, or at least the second set, back on an even keel. Although Jankovic failed to convert on that occasion, enabling Kanepi to move ahead 5-2, Kanepi's increasingly rushed play translated into a mounting error count, despite a changeover reminder from her coach to keep breathing. Jankovic duly pulled level at 5-5, but serving yet again to stay in the match at 5-6, it was she who connected fatally late with her shots, sending a forehand, then a backhand wide on what would be the last two points of the match.
"I did get a bit tight and started thinking too much when I was 4-0 up in the second, but such things happen when you have the opportunity to beat such a top player. Thankfully, I managed to pull it back."
For her efforts, Kanepi earns a quarterfinal match-up against Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina, who upset Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round and Wednesday advanced when No.12 seed Dominika Cibulkova retired in the third set of their match suffering from heat illness. The Slovak teenager had taken the first set but by the time she called it quits the momentum was firmly with Vesnina, 46 61 40.
Earlier, sixth seed Venus had to dig deeper than the 63 62 scoreline against 10th seed Alizé Cornet might suggest, especially in the first set when the French 19-year-old's crafty tactical play - mixing of pace - kept her in the hunt. But eventually Venus's greater weight of shot and forays forward began to tell, as she swept through seven of the last eight games to victory.
"I missed a few shots long and I was upset about that, but I was able to improve," she said. "I was good at the net and, yes, I like it up there."
With the win, the 28-year-old set up a tenth career meeting with fourth seed Dementieva, who was clinical in her defeat of No.14 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, 61 63. Dementieva and Venus last met in the semis of the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha in November, with the American emerging the winner in three sets.
Fifth seed Zvonareva led 5-2 in the first set against Marion Bartoli when the No.11 seed retired with blisters on both feet; in the quarters the Russian faces another Frenchwoman, Virginie Razzano, who held her nerve to dispatch Daniela Hantuchova in three sets, 62 16 62.
In a rematch of last year's Wimbledon semifinal, Serena was given a workout by China's Zheng Jie, the No.13 seed, before winning, 64 62. Her opponent in the last eight is No.8 seed Ivanovic, who led by a set and 5-3 but had to hold off a late surge by French lucky loser Camille Pin, the world No.61, 62 76(5).
Top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber won their first match since pocketing the indoor title at Paris on Sunday, downing Sania Mirza and Mara Santangelo, 63 63, but second-seeded Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond were ousted by Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska, 64 63.