The dragon that spits fire
Join Date: Aug 2006
USOpen.org Player of the Day: Jelena Jankovic
Player of the Day
Serbia and Montenegro
Four victories in four rounds is now a phrase associated with eight players in the women’s field of the US Open. But only one can claim to have toppled two Top 10 seeds in the process of reaching the quarterfinals: Jelena Jankovic.
Jankovic’s run has been all the more impressive when you consider how much she struggled earlier in the year. After winning her opening match of 2006 at the Australian Open, the 21-year-old Serbian endured a stretch of 10 straight match defeats that lasted until mid-May, when she won in the first round at Rome.
A strong summer, including a finals' appearance in Los Angeles, helped Jankovic enter the US Open as the 19th seed. She continued her improving play from the start of the tournament by taking care of business in the first couple of rounds, disposing of unseeded counterparts Jie Zheng of China and Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.
That led to the Serbian’s first major test of the fortnight, a tussle with Nicole Vaidisova – the ninth seed from Russia – who had won all three of their previous meetings. It seemed like history would repeat itself after Jankovic dropped the first set, but she rallied to capture the next two to pull off the upset.
By reaching the Round of 16, the 21-year-old achieved her best ever showing at the US Open. But Jankovic wasn’t satisfied, as she had never reached the quarterfinal round at a Grand Slam event.
Jankovic could do so with a win over her Round of 16 opponent – No. 6 seed and 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia. Kuznetsova entered their Day 8 battle without having dropped a set through three rounds.
The very first encounter between the players, the match started out with a familiar feel. Kuznetsova jumped out to a one-set lead on Jankovic, although the Serbian suffered a tough loss in a tie-break this time around. But the possibility of Jankvoic taking down another high seed seemed to dim after she called the trainer over due to leg cramping.
Those notions were squashed, however, by a revived Jankovic as the second set commenced. Much like in the Vaidisova match, Jankovic simply took over, posting decisive wins in the last two sets to cruise to the victory. In the final set, the 19th seed needed only 32 minutes to finish off Kuznetsova.
The days of extended match losing streaks seem to be distant memories now for Jankovic, who has turned into the tournament’s top giant killer by developing a knack for closing the deal.
Jankovic will have the opportunity to oust another Top 10 seed in her initial Grand Slam quarterfinal, as she’s slotted to face No. 4 Elena Dementieva of Russia, a US Open finalist from 2004.