Petra Kvitova is a tall left-hander from the Czech Republic, with flowing tennis strokes, who loves the grass at Wimbledon. She has won the women’s title here twice, including last year.
Jelena Jankovic is a tall right-hander from Serbia by way of Rancho Santa Fe, with long-legged court coverage and a general dislike for the grass at Wimbledon. She has made it to one major final, the 2008 U.S. Open, and rose to No. 1 in the same year.
Kvitova is 25 and is seeded second behind Serena Williams here. The impression is that her best tennis is ahead of her.
Jankovic is 30 and is seeded No. 28. The impression is her best tennis is behind her.
So when they playedSaturday on Centre Court, and Kvitova won the first set, 6-3, spectators yawned and focused on their strawberries and cream. Even more so when Kvitova went up a service break in the second set.
But then, inexplicably, the match turned and Jankovic was back, raising her level and lunging back a return from Kvitova on match point, then dropping flat on her back when the ball didn’t come back.
Jankovic immediately started celebrating her 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory, and she probably still is.
“I cannot stop smiling,” Jankovic said. “I’m really, really happy. I don’t know how to explain.”
Kvitova was obviously less happy, but similarly baffled.
“If I know what happened,” she said, “I’m going to tell you.”
Jankovic said she was able to rally because, after years of doing little at Wimbledon, she came better prepared this time.
“One of the reasons,” she said, “is because I never played a warmup tournament. I would just come from the French Open … and wouldn’t know what I am doing on grass. It’s happening so fast. Points going so fast. Before I know it, I’m out of the court.”
She hadn’t been past the second round here in the last four years, but she wasn’t willing to chalk that up to age.
“I’m not old,” she said, giggling. “I’m still young at heart. I look pretty good, so why not? I mean, give me a break, guys.”
She lists her residence as Dubai, likely for tax purposes, but built a home in Rancho Sante Fe several years ago and always jokes with writers about the need to do well because the home was so expensive.
Men’s results were predictable. No. 2 Roger Federer played, and beat, the tour’s best NFL prospect, Australia’s burly Sam Groth, who serves big and is getting better in other areas. But you need to be a lot better than just improving when you play Federer, who won, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2.
The British hope, third-seeded Andy Murray, moved ahead with a 6-2, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 victory over Andreas Seppi of Italy.
And Dustin Brown, conqueror of Rafael Nadal in a stunning result Thursday, did what most low-ranked, upset-producing players do in major tournaments in the next round. He lost.
Viktor Troicki of Serbia beat Brown, 6-4, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-3.
Madison Keys kept the number of U.S. women survivors at four with her 6-4, 6-4 victory over Tatjana Maria of Germany. Venus and Serena Williams will play each other Monday, and CoCo Vandeweghe, also from Rancho Santa Fe, will play sixth-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic for a spot in the quarterfinals.