Defending champion Petra Kvitova dumped out of Wimbledon
Former world number one Jelena Jankovic comes from a set down to reach fourth round
Defending champions Petra Kvitova is out of Wimbledon after losing to Jelena Jankovic in three sets. Photograph: Afp
Petra Kvitova fears she will be haunted for weeks by her stunning Wimbledon exit as a title defence that looked to be running smoothly came dramatically off the rails.
It was the enigmatic Jelena Jankovic, a former world number one whose spell at the top of women’s tennis was far from distinguished, who caused a major Saturday afternoon upset by winning 3-6 7-5 6-4.
Hers was an “unbelievable” triumph, Jankovic said, and the evidence supported that judgement.
Spectators inside Centre Court were counting down the minutes until Andy Murray’s arrival for his tussle with Andreas Seppi, lulled by the one-way nature of the women’s singles match as Kvitova moved seemingly untroubled towards the fourth round.
The champion of 2011 and 2014 led by a set, by 3-1 in the second, and had 40-15 against the Jankovic serve in the next game, with two break points for what would have been surely a match-winning advantage.
But incredibly Kvitova crumbled, the 25-year-old’s game going to pieces while Jankovic became steadily more solid.
Come the final game of the match, the Czech’s forehand deserted her completely.
She put one into the net, flayed another long and wide and flung a third several feet over the baseline, and Jankovic had her first match point.
Kvitova netted, this time with a backhand, and Jankovic flopped to the grass, finding her victory hard to believe.
“This is tough in a tournament which is special for me,” Kvitova said. “I think it’s going to take me a few days, a few weeks maybe.
“But that’s how it is. It’s tennis. I’m still human. I’m not a robot.
“But I was wishing for a better result for sure.
“It’s tough to explain. If I knew what happened, I would tell you. I was up in the second set. Suddenly I felt like she was coming back, playing a little bit aggressively.
“I didn’t have an answer for it. My serve didn’t help me at all. I was really struggling with each shot I played.”
Jankovic, seeded 28th, will tackle Agnieszka Radwanska on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals.
Finishing runner-up at the 2008 US Open remains her best grand slam singles result. This was one of her finest days since then, as the reaction indicated.
“I can’t stop smiling. I’m really, really happy. I don’t know how to explain it,” Jankovic said.
“But it’s a really big win for me, especially playing on Centre Court against a two-time Wimbledon champion. It’s really amazing.
“I was just happy to be playing and competing on grass. Grass is not my favourite surface. And Petra plays so well on it. I think it’s her favourite surface. It shows by winning two Wimbledon titles.
“I was down a set and a break in the second. I was able to just stay calm. I just played one point at a time and held my ground and won that second set.
“After that I knew I could do it. I was fighting. I was very brave at the end. Here I am. Unbelievable.”
Jankovic has been troubled by injuries and her seeding of 28th reflects how far she has dropped in the rankings, but the 30-year-old believes she can move up in the world in the autumn of her career.
“I want to get to where I think I belong. I’ve done it in the past. I’ve been many years in the top 10, I’ve been number one in the world, I’ve played against all these players,” she said.
“If I’m able to work hard and believe in myself, hopefully my time will come again.”
As Kvitova prepared to head home, 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 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.”