Alisa Kleybanova

US Open Day 3: Jelena Jankovic Struggles To Reach The Next

NEW YORK – One has been number one in the world. The other has a Grand Slam tournament title. On Wednesday, the two Serbians posted three-set victories on the hard courts of the US Open.

Despite twisting an ankle during his first-round match, Novak Djokovic had little problem disposing of Frenchman Arnaud Clement in straight sets, 6-3 6-3 6-4.

The same wasn’t true for Jelena Jankovic, who not only struggled in her battle with Sofia Arvidsson, but after racing in unsuccessfully to catch up with a drop shop, Jankovic dropped to the court and stayed there for about 30 seconds.

“I was just tired and I couldn’t get up,” Jankovic said. “I was so exhausted at that moment. I was breathing hard and I didn’t have the energy to get up.”

Pushed to the limit, the admittedly out-of-shape Jankovic eventually outlasted her Swedish opponent and captured the 2-hour, 44-minute marathon 6-3 6-7 (5) 7-5.

“I would have loved to, you know, take a nap on court, because I was really exhausted,” said Jankovic. “But, you know, the rules are the rules. I had to keep going.”

Djokovic, ranked third in the world behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, had more problems with the court than with his opponent. There were moments of anxiety when he hyper extended his left ankle in the fourth game of the final set.

“It’s OK,” Djokovic said. “It’s going to be good in two days, I’m sure. After that happened, I was thinking more of it than I was really actually feeling the pain, so it’s not really a big deal.

“But in that certain moment, I felt big pain, so I just had to tape the ankle.”

This was the first match the 21-year-old Serb has played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center since losing to Roger Federer in the championship match a year ago.

“Last year’s final was remarkable and unexplainable,” Djokovic said. “The moment we got onto the court, 23,000 people stood up. Some moments in your life you can’t forget. … That was kind of a turning point in my career.”

He won his first Grand Slam tournament title in January, the Australian Open, and is one of the favorites to end Federer’s bid for a fifth consecutive US Open title. If he and Federer do meet this year, it will be in the semifinals since both are in the bottom half of the draw.

“I started believing after the finals that I really can win,” Djokovic said. “I knew it was a matter of time. I just needed to work and really dedicate myself to it, so that’s what I did … and it paid off.”

In her match, Jankovic several times hunched over and leaned on her racket, trying to catch her breath. She has been battling injuries this summer, including hurting her knee at Wimbledon, and is not in the best shape.

Twice she served for the match in the second set before Arvidsson rallied to level the match at set apiece, erasing a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak by her highly ranked foe.

Jankovic also won the first three games to begin the final set, only to continue her barrage of errors – she finished with 54 unforced errors, seven more than her opponent, to go along with 48 winners, eight more than Arvidsson. Then it was a series of service breaks until Jankovic finally held to gain a spot in the third round.

Her next opponent will be Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie, who advanced Wednesday with a 6-1 6-4 victory over Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain. Zheng whipped through the first set, then had trouble finding the court with her ground strokes as she fell behind 1-4 in the second set. But the Chinese right-hander reeled off the next five games to move into the next round.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, one of the six Russian ranked in the top ten in the world, also had some tense moments before prevailing in her second-round match. After a shaky start, the 2004 US Open winner defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 7-6 (3) 6-1.

Tatiana Perebiynis of the Ukraine pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament so far, eliminating eighth-seeded Vera Zvonareva 6-3 6-3. The Russian committed 30 unforced errors and never was able to compete with Perebiynis, who has reached the third round of a major for the first time since Wimbledon four years ago.

Another former champion, Lindsay Davenport, posted a 7-5 6-3 win over Russian Alisa Kleybanova.

“I didn’t play quite as well as I did the other day,” said Davenport, who won America’s premier tennis tournament in 1998. “I didn’t find my rhythm, but sometimes you just have to get through these matches.

“I’m ecstatic to be in the third round.”