MALLORCA, Spain – Jelena Jankovic survived more than one scare at the Mallorca Open, where she found herself battling back from a love set down to advance 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 against Elise Mertens for a spot in the quarterfinals.
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“It was a very, very tough match,” Jankovic said afterwards. “I played against a young opponent who came through qualies and has done quite well recently. She’s played a lot of matches on grass and so she’s quite confident.”
Playing against the Belgian qualifier for the first time, Jankovic couldn’t find a way to make Mertens uncomfortable as her opponent ripped winner after winner and put the No.2 seed down 0-6 in 28 minutes.
“I was playing everything that she likes, because also I don’t know her game very well,” Jankovic said. “I didn’t know the way she plays or her style. I’ve just seen a little bit of her match yesterday, and she played very differently against me which was a surprise for me.”
The former No.1 found her rhythm in the second and third set. Although Mertens broke to start the second set, Jankovic quickly replied in kind and did a bit of problem-solving to expose the weaknesses in the 20-year-old’s game. From then on, it seemed almost inevitable as Jankovic grabbed the next two sets to complete her comeback.
Despite her dominating performance in the last half of the match, Jankovic herself never seemed comfortable on the grass throughout the match. Despite winning a title in Birmingham in 2007, grass has never been the Serb’s favored surface, evidence by her many slips and tumbles today.
“It’s not easy, on this surface,” Jankovic said. “I can play well on grass, but I just think it’s more mental for me than anything else. Maybe I just put it into my head that I don’t like the surface. Because I fell a few times, I became scared to move freely.
“I was scared to move and was a little bit tentative. On other surfaces I move without thinking and hit my shots, but here, once I fell down I became so scared. But that happens to everyone, and I just have to fight and keep playing.”
Jankovic will need to find her nerve on this surface again in her quarterfinal with Sorana Cirstea, who moved past Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-4.
“I think on grass, the most important thing is mentality, because everything goes so quick,” Cirstea said. “If your mind is off for a few seconds, straightaway they can break you. One break can mean one set.
“Here it’s so important to stay focused every single point, it takes more energy. Even if the matches are shorter, it’s a lot on the mental side.”
Also moving on are Mariana Duque-Mariño, who dealt a huge upset to grass-court stalwart Sabine Lisicki, toppling her 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. No.8 seed Eugenie Bouchard also tumbled out, falling to Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-3.