Jankovic rallies to oust Kvitova

LONDON: A woman who once fumed she “needed a helicopter” to go on a Wimbledon court she called a “parking lot” could not have been happier with her surroundings on Saturday as Jelena Jankovic sent holder Petra Kvitova spinning out.

A tournament still reeling from the second-round exit of Rafa Nadal 48 hours earlier, and the near-exit of Serena Williams 24 hours ago, suffered its biggest shock of this year’s championships as Jankovic emerged from the tennis wilderness to deliver the most unexpected of knockout punches.

The Serbian, who had fallen in the opening round at three of the four previous grand slams, announced her return to the big stage with a heart-stopping 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 third-round victory over the second-seeded Czech that left Centre Court buzzing.

“Oh my God! I am overwhelmed and so excited. My heart is still pumping,” said the 28th seed whose reign as world No 1 in 2008 feels like a lifetime ago. “I have played so poorly the last couple of years and playing on Centre Court against the defending champion was unbelievable. The crowd was really great. Playing on grass is so difficult for me; it does not come naturally.”

While Jankovic was rolling on to her back in delight, and showed her appreciation to the crowd by shaping a heart with her fingers, the men’s favourites made serene progress. Andy Murray also dropped his first set at this year’s event and needed on-court treatment for a sore shoulder before advancing to a fourth round showdown with big-serving Ivo Karlovic with a 6-2, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 win. Karlovic hurled down 41 aces in a 7-6(3), 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(9) win over French 13th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

However, it was Kvitova’s sensational demise that appeared to flummox everyone; including the 2014 champion. “I’m not really sure what happened out there,” said the left-hander. No one saw the defeat coming after Kvitova had whipped her first two opponents for the loss of just three games. But Jankovic produced the kind of shots not seen from her racket since she ruled tennis years ago and stormed back from a set and 4-2 down to pull off the most improbable of victories when Kvitova whacked a backhand into the net.

It was little wonder that a woman who was left angry seven years ago when as the second seed she was forced to play on Court 18 could not stop grinning on Saturday. “I cannot stop smiling. It’s a really big win for me, especially playing on Centre Court,” she said. “I just beat a defending champion. It’s unbelievable.”