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25 Jan 2009 10:12
Top-ranked Jelena Jankovic went down in the fourth round and number three Dinara Safina was twice just a point away from following her out of the Australian Open on Sunday.
In back-to-back matches on Rod Laver Arena, the Frenchwomen took it to the top seeds. Jankovic failed against number 16 Marion Bartoli.
Safina survived, fending off double match point against number 15 Alize Cornet.
“I am so lucky that I’m in the quarterfinals, she was one point away,” said Safina, who made eight double-faults and 52 unforced errors to only 29 by Cornet.
Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up, was the aggressor in a 6-1, 6-4 win over Jankovic that wasn’t entirely unexpected.
“Yeah, it’s obviously disappointing. Nobody likes to lose,” Jankovic said. “Today was a tough day for me.
“I had a slow start. I let my opponent completely come on top of me and play her game. I gave her a lot of confidence.”
The 23-year-old Serb remains without a Grand Slam singles title and could also be without the number one ranking in another week.
Safina, who was down 5-3 and 40-15 with Cornet serving for the match, rallied to win 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. She could assume the top ranking if she wins her first major here.
When the 22-year-old Russian converted breakpoint with an overhead in the pivotal 10th game in the third set, she pumped her right arm up high in triumph.
Cornet, who had crumbled to her knees with her head in her hands after losing the previous point, didn’t win another game.
Safina, the Olympic silver medalist, had never been past the third round at Melbourne Park. After racing to a 5-0 lead in the first set, it appeared she was coasting. Then she fell apart and she started missing routine shots with the court wide open.
“I don’t always want to play like this,” she said. “I want to play better for my team, I think they have a heart attack watching me.” Jankovic said she couldn’t repeat her coach’s reaction to her loss, but that it might take months to get over the loss.
She said the pressure she was under to win a breakthrough major to go with her ranking wasn’t necessarily distractions.
“It doesn’t matter because it’s just the beginning of the year, and there is many more tournaments to play,” she said. “Maybe it will change, the number one ranking, but it’s not important what you do now, it’s the whole year ahead of us.”
Bartoli had not been past the second round in seven previous trips to Melbourne Park, but was 3-3 in head-to-heads including a quarterfinal win at Wimbledon two years ago.
“I knew I could beat Jelena on a good day, it was just a matter of executing it, you know, play the right shot at the right time,” she said. “But I was not overwhelmed by the situation, and I just went for my shot and everything went in.”
On the men’s side, number eight Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina moved into the quarterfinals with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over number 19 Marin Cilic of Croatia.
Critics questioned whether Jankovic could convert her numeric ranking into a victory in the championship match at a major. She was a semifinalist at the Australian Open and French Opens last year before
losing the US Open final to Serena Williams.
She was injured and missed an exhibition tournament in Hong Kong where she’d planned to build up.
When Bartoli turned up the pressure on Sunday, Jankovic tightened up again.
Bartoli was the aggressor, repeatedly sending Jankovic serves back faster than they came over and standing two steps inside the baseline for second serves.
Bartoli hits two-fisted, flat and hard from both sides, and she peppered the lines and corners. Jankovic, repeatedly covering her face or looking to her mother for support and guidance, seemed shellshocked after falling behind 5-0 in the first set despite shouts of “Let’s go JJ!” from the crowd.
Jankovic fended off two set points while serving at 1-5, but Bartoli easily held in the next game, finishing off the set with a deft drop shot that caught Jankovic behind the baseline.
Increasingly tentative and bewildered, Jankovic twice lost points early in the second set by stopping play on Bartoli shots that she thought were long but replays showed caught the line. She used up her last challenge of the set in the sixth game.
Bartoli broke to pull ahead 5-4 in a game that went to deuce six times, with Jankovic netting a backhand on breakpoint.
Jankovic wanted to challenge Bartoli’s winner in the next game but couldn’t. The Frenchwoman went on to hold despite a twitchy double fault at 40-15, whacking a forehand winner down the line and raising her arms in jubilation.
That leaves number two Serena Williams, seeking her 10th Grand Slam singles title, as the highest-ranked player in the women’s draw. - Sapa-AP
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