Lepchenko Outlasts JJ, Down To Thirty-Three
Published May 31, 2012 12:00
PARIS, France - The French Open's second round wrapped up Thursday - well, almost - and among the winners was Varvara Lepchenko, who upset Jelena Jankovic to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
With some heavy, deep hitting from the baseline Lepchenko hung with the No.19 seed for over three hours, and in the end she had just enough left in the tank, breaking serve at 4-all in the third set and serving it out, 76(4) 46 64.
"After that last point I couldn't believe the match was over," Lepchenko said. "I was still in the moment. I think I was able to play another couple of games, so that's why I was pretty shocked. At the same time I'm pretty happy, because this is the first time I'm through the second round at a Grand Slam."
Lepchenko was playing Jankovic for the first time, and although Jankovic has not had her best results this year - she dropped out of the Top 20 a few weeks ago, her first time out of the elite since 2006 - it was still quite the feat to take out the three-time French Open semifinalist and former World No.1.
"I hit a day before with Patrick McEnroe and he told me, 'Wow, you're hitting your forehand amazing. You should use it during the match against Jelena.' I tried to execute that plan and play my forehand as much as I could. It did help. A lot of people keep saying to me I'm hitting like a man from my forehand side, that I have a lot of spin. A lot of the girls out there are hitting much flatter.
"It gives me belief I have something special, a weapon that can help me out."
Jankovic agreed with Lepchenko's take. "She was spinning that forehand - off the ground she had a lot of rotation, especially on that forehand," Jankovic said. "She was very solid. Right now I'm lacking confidence, and sometimes in a match during the important points, I don't do well. So that wasn't easy. But I fought hard with what I had in the moment. Unfortunately it wasn't enough."
Next for Lepchenko is another potential grinder in Francesca Schiavone. The No.14-seeded Italian recovered from a first set blowout to beat Tsvetana Pironkova, 26 63 61, her 15th win in her last 16 matches at Roland Garros - she was the champion here in 2010 and a runner-up to Li Na in 2011.
Lepchenko just beat Schiavone a few weeks ago in Madrid, her biggest career win to date (read more here). But it will be a different Schiavone this time, as the Italian is on a seven-match winning streak, having won the tune-up event in Strasbourg last week and adding on two more wins in Paris this week.
"Beating Francesca in Madrid was one of the toughest matches I've had. I had to recover for three days after that," Lepchenko said. "Having that experience of beating top players helped me out in today's match. I believed in myself, and I believed I could do it. I'm looking forward to playing Francesca again."
Other winners were No.25 seed Julia Goerges, No.28 seed Peng Shuai and unseeded players Christina McHale, Carla Suárez Navarro, Arantxa Rus and qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova, who cruised past Sofia Arvidsson, 61 60.
"The first two games were very close with break points both ways, and I was nervous," said Shvedova, a former quarterfinalist here. "But I just stuck to my gameplan and played all the points solidly and didn't make any mistakes.
"It feels great to play so well again here in Paris."
McHale won an all-American battle with qualifier Lauren Davis and with Lepchenko and Sloane Stephens, this is the first time three American women have reached the third round here since 2005 (then it was Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams and Marissa Irvin - or Marissa Gould, since 2008).