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Pocket fighter Errani sees off Jankovic
The fight for the women’s crown at Roland Garros 2014 continued on its unpredictable path when the No.10 seed Sara Errani upset the three-time semi-finalist Jelena Jankovic to take her place in the last eight. The Italian, runner-up here to Maria Sharapova in 2012, was in tears midway through the 81-minute first set, but regained her composure to edge the tiebreak, and never looked back. She won 7-6(5), 6-2 and will face the No.28 seed Andrea Petkovic for a place in the last four.
With rock star Prince watching events on Suzanne Lenglen Court, the first set alone felt like an epic. Jankovic, seeded sixth, took to the court with tape on the outside of both thighs, and was soon running from tramline to tramline as Errani forced her this way and that, breaking for 2-0. The Serb’s returns were warming up by then and she put it back on serve for 1-2, but her service let her down again and all looked to be running smoothly for Errani when a 24-stroke rally took her to break point for 5-1. But Jankovic, gesturing wildly in her uncontainably demonstrative way, turned it around. Instead of 1-5, after a run of long rallies she broke with two successive returns to get it back to 3-4. At that point both the trainer and the doctor arrived to tend to Jankovic’s right thigh during a lengthy medical timeout, with the trainer administering a complex strapping and the doctor tablets, presumably painkillers. On the resumption, Jankovic saved a break point, and then at 4-4 sent a powerful backhand return down the line to make it four games in a row. Errani went back to her chair plainly in tears.
But the pocket fighter wasn’t done. Once again the pendulum swung her way as she broke easily for 5-5, whereupon it was Jankovic’s turn for 6-5. Errani handed over a set point with an overcooked forehand to conclude a 27-stroke rally, before forcing an error to save it, and pushing the set into the breaker. Jankovic’s groundstrokes were not deep enough to defeat Errani’s terrier-like retrieval. The Italian edged the tiebreak courtesy of a Jankovic unforced error.
When the No.6 seed was broken to love at the start of the second, it looked very much as if she was done. The 29-year-old stayed in it as best she could, but Errani compounded the damage with a double break for 5-2 and took it on the second match point. So the Italian continues her peculiar record of never having lost in the last 16 of a Grand Slam (in every other round, yes, but not the fourth), and Jankovic – arguably the best current player never to have won a Slam – now has to look back to 2010 for the one occasion in their four career meetings that she has got Errani’s number.
Meantime, Andrea Petkovic kicked off the day’s programme on Philippe Chatrier Court by beating Kiki Bertens, ranked 148th, for a place in the last eight. The Dutch 22-year-old exceeded her previous best progression at any Slam by beating the No.25 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round, and was bidding to equal the best ever result by a Roland Garros qualifier by reaching the quarter-finals. But it was Petkovic who took it 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and three minutes.
In the first set Bertens’ signature aggressive baseline play did its stuff, and she out-hit Petkovic to romp away. But there was a reversal of fortune in the second as the Bosnian-born German, whose favourite surface this is, levelled. Neither would give much ground in the decider – Petkovic did break early but Bertens got it back and the momentum seemed to be with her. But then the seriously brainy No.28 seed – she speaks four languages and enjoys Goethe, Wilde and Flaubert for a little light reading – pierced her opponent’s defences for 6-5, serving it out.