Belinda Bencic gave it all in her opening round match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship only to fall apart in hard fought defeat. It was Jelena Jankovic on the other side of the court pulling off the big upset 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 on Centre Court Tuesday night.
The two European tennis stars got back to it for a fourth meeting. The soon to be 19 year old holds the head to head lead with two victories that came during last season. Bencic nearly had her eyes set on a third title last Sunday but was swept in straight sets by Roberta Vinci. The newly ranked ninth player in the world might have fatigue getting the best of her after just two days rest but with her being 11 years Jankovic’s junior, she could pull off another run at a championship.
The teen showed her skills against Jankovic in the first few games that made it look as if she hadn’t lost much pep. She led the Serb 2-1 before a two break draw on deuce went in her favor to keep her winning streak alive. The veteran struck back to get within reach of Bencic’s lead in the fifth holding on her own service. The pattern continued on for both players on serve, but in the end Bencic was still ahead of Jankovic then sitting at 5-3 into the ninth.
The Serb had to fight hard to stay alive and did it against the Swiss teen to try and pull off a break to stay alive in the set. She was outdone by Bencic who landed a solid ace that was challenged by the Serb but not overturned as she controlled things to get halfway into the match. It took her 38 minutes to complete the set win as Bencic had a 68 percent success on the serve through the set with three aces and 13 winners that included winning four straight net points.
Jankovic tried to change things up in the second with her serving first and try to break Bencic from then on. She nearly had a second win but the fight from Bencic went into a long draw on deuce that ended with the teen winning by sending Jankovic on a run across court. She responded by taking the lead in the third with big winners on the serve. Things were again running neck and neck between the players with Bencic still taking the lead after every level pegging.
After seven, she led Jankovic 4-3 with mistakes on calls costing the Serb. She made up for it in the eighth with a solid triple break against Bencic attempting to make a run on the Swiss. She took the lead on serve with a clean love service that had her playing to even things in the match. The opportunity was stolen by the Swiss teen as she answered returns from Jankovic to level the set at five all causing a seventh game to be won.
Mistakes rattled Bencic in the 11th where she had a few rough moments causing her to scream and slam her racket on the court. More came right after a long 12 minute match where Jankovic played through five breaks before winning the set that forced the two into a huge deciding third set. It took 58 minutes to record the set into the books with the two players playing opposite games. The Serb averaged 71 percent on the first serve while Bencic had success on less than half her shots.
Despite her drop, the number nine ranked teen didn’t give up going into third despite losing the opening game right off the bat. Jankovic wanted to get a forceful lead against Bencic but was cut off in Game Two. The game still ran on serve with Jankovic taking the edge away from Bencic leading 2-1. It was quickly back into a tight stalemate through six games as the two were both going after each other despite troubles from Bencic.
It stayed leveled through eight games with Jankovic trying to get out front first to reach the match. She did so with amazing shots against Bencic including the game leading point after a 21 shot match where the Serb landed the ball in the far corner. She had everything set up to eliminate the ninth ranked Swiss star playing for the match on the return. Three straight errors, a loss of energy and a complete breakdown ended her run against Jankovic in the two and a half hour match.
“I just fought for every point, tried to hang in there,” Jankovic said to Annabel Croft during the on court interview. “Belinda was playing so well and I was almost at the edge losing in the second set, but I fought hard and was lucky to win.”