For the evening session of the first day of Round 2 of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament the two Centre Court matches were both intriguing ones. The first one saw qualifier Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic facing off against tournament number one seed, Serbian Jelena Jankovic.
This was Jankovic's first match and Benesova's sixth in five days. After Benesova's 4 wins she was exhibiting a lot of confidence. Even as she walked into the packed Centre Court you could tell by the look on her face that she was all business and ready for an upset. On the other side of the net, Jankovic had not played very much lately due to an ankle injury. She had been in town since Sunday and practiced on the outer courts daily.
What ensued was the highest quality match of the week so far. The high quality was despite the swirly wind that players had to contend with all day. During the first set each player held serve except for one break each.
Benesova's game was especially remarkable. Her left-handed serve was setting up everything and with a 76% first serve percentage it gave her a big advantage on her service games. Plus being left handed was an advantage in that all Jankovic's cross court shorts were to Benesova's forehand.
Once the first set reached 6-6 it was tiebreak time. The tiebreak ended up being all Benesova as she dominated 7-3 to win the 1st set 7-6. Shock was beginning to ripple around the crowd. The 76th rank player now found herself up a set against the top ranked player in the tournament. Who would have predicted that?
Jankovic's trademark defence was on display for a large part of the 1st set. The number one seed was not playing poorly it was just that Benesova was on fire. Benesova was full value on this evening and going for all her shots. Her court position was aggressive and she was always looking to move forward and take the ball early. She was giving Jankovic, who did not seem worried quite yet, all she could handle.
To start the 2nd set Benesova served first and held and then broke Jankovic on her first service game. Jankovic was now showing signs of frustration and was beginning to realize that she was going to have to fight her way back into the match.
In the 3rd game Jankovic had a break chance, but Benesova managed to fight off two break points and hold for 3-0. It is all well and good for the lower ranked player to take the lead the interesting part is always whether they can maintain that lead and close out the game.
Things started briefly looking up for Jankovic when she managed to break Benesova's serve in the 5th game. That made the score 3-2. Being a great competitor, you knew that Jankovic was not going to throw in the towel. Jankovic seemed to have elevated her game a touch and at the same time Benesova's 1st serve percentage had dipped a bit. The allure of the match briefly changed.
Each player held their next serve then suddenly Benesova broke Jankovic for a 5-3 lead and the opportunity to serve for the set and match. Jankovic seemed totally defeated at this point and Benesova had triple match point. She held at love and won the match 7-6, 6-3. The top seed was out of the tournament! Quite an upset!
The second game saw another qualifier Jarmila Groth of Australia against Li Na of China. Groth is ranked 64th in the world and Na 10th.
This is the highest ranking of her career for the 28-year-old Na. Interesting that she is playing her best/most consistent tennis at the later stages of her career. Na is a huge star back home and the first Chinese player to crack the Top 10.
Groth has the makings of a big game. She has tons of strength in her legs, torso and core plus she moves well on the court. At this point she is just looking to be more consistent.
It was a battle of big hitters with both women possessing cannons for forehands. Li Na is one of the hardest hitters on the tour.
During the match Na controlled it pretty much from beginning to end and won 6-3, 6-2. Groth had several break chances through the two sets, but was only able to capitalize on one in the 2nd set. It wasn't that worrisome for Na as she broke right back. There was only to be one upset on this night.