Jankovic Battles Back in Birmingham
Published June 17, 2007 12:00
BIRMINGHAM, UK - One of the DFS Classic's most successful players won the first set and held leads in the second and third sets but still couldn't stop Jelena Jankovic. The Serbian whirlwind whipped up another come-from-behind victory to claim her fourth Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title of 2007, beating Maria Sharapova, 46 63 75.
The tournament's Top 2 seeds were strong on serve in the opening set, trading breaks just once early on; but Sharapova grabbed a critical break to go up 4-3, and held on the rest of the way to tuck away a one set lead. She broke again to go up 3-2 in the second set and even held two points for 4-2, but that was when Jankovic battled back for the first time, winning four straight games to send it into a deciding third.
Sharapova once again took a decisive lead, going up 3-0 and also having points for a 4-2 lead, but every time it was the feisty Serb who came through, and she eventually completed her first win in their four meetings in one hour, 55 minutes.
"When I started I was a bit slow and not feeling the ball well, but as the match went on I became the player I am, the one that gave me all these results this year," Jankovic said. "I suddenly started fighting, got into the match and pulled through. I was losing the whole time, but I was just fighting point by point."
"I can only take good things from the match," Sharapova said. "I lost the edge in the second set when I was up and she took advantage of it, but all in all it was a good week. It was a good performance from both of us."
The win over Sharapova is impressive in many ways. Firstly, she holds the third-best grass court win-loss percentage in history, trailing legends Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova only. Additionally, this was Jankovic's first win in 14 attempts against Top 2 players, so her win over the world No.2 is her career-best win.
"Beating Sharapova on this surface is a good result," said Jankovic, who fell to the Russian in the 2005 final here. "I also gave her revenge for the time she beat me so it's good and going into Wimbledon with a title under my belt is great."
And when facing that seemingly insurmountable third set deficit, the 22-year-old was just not going to crumble, something that may have augmented with her three previous title runs this year, at Auckland, Charleston and Rome.
"I feel mentally stronger when it comes to a tight situation - I am hanging in there and not giving the points away and I'm going to fight my best and try on every point no matter what the score is. I go for it. I want to win and never give up."
Sharapova, who fell to 0-2 in finals this year after also finishing runner-up at the Australian Open, drew confidence as she heads to the site of her first major title.
"I think I've improved tremendously; I am a much better grass court player than four matches ago," she said. "Coming into the week my goal was to play five matches, so I couldn't be more pleased. I asked to play five matches and I did."
Also making it through the rain and making some noise in Birmingham were France's Marion Bartoli and Italy's Mara Santangelo, who notched upset wins over higher seeds to reach the semifinals, and former world No.5 Daniela Hantuchova, who reached the last eight and will subsequently make her Top 10 return, having gone nearly four years on the other side of the elite benchmark.
Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung came through the doubles draw to earn their third Tour title together, having won at 2005 Seoul and 2007 Bangalore. It was the eighth final in 11 Tour events for the team from Chinese Taipei, who bounced China's Sun Tiantian and American Meilen Tu in the final, 76(3) 63.
Perhaps the biggest story of the week was the rain, which drowned out one entire day of play and wreaked havoc on most of the others, ultimately forcing several players to play two or three matches in one day over the championship weekend.