By Jane Voigt
Daniel Island, April 3, 2014 — Jelena Jankovic acted the diva in Fila’s Diva Pink collection last night. The press dubbed her the Pink Panther. If she were a super hero, she said, her superpower would be ‘talking too much.’ Entertaining Jelena defeated Lauren Davis 60 63 with a feel-good mindset.
Venus Williams on the other hand ponders life, likes to read, and had to learn her competitive spirit. “Have you seen the “Wizard of Oz,” the lion?” she said, hand on chin, after escaping Chanelle Scheepers, 75 75. “He didn’t have a heart, but he wanted it. So he got it. He did what it took. You have to recognize you have this issue and fix it. You can’t just ignore it. So I think for me it was a learned thing.”
Unfortunately Williams, who has been dealing with a cold, could not find the heart to defeat a very focused Eugenie Bouchard this afternoon, even though the 7-time slam winner had her chances.
Bouchard won the match 76(6) 26 64. Both women agreed they didn’t play their best. Williams admitted she had too many errors. Bouchard said the same. One was on, then the other was on.
One fan said, “You can feel it when Venus bears down. You can feel it in the stadium.”
So how did Bouchard engage her competitive nature when she fell behind in the tiebreak and down a break in the third? And how does a 20-year-old hone that edge, or does it come naturally to her?
“Every time I walk on court, I believe I can win, and I think I believed more this time than probably the last time I played her,” Bouchard said. She lost to Williams at the 2013 Tokyo tournament. Today was their second matchup.
She is also working with new Coach Nick Saviano. His inspiration has helped the Canadian move from No. 114 to No. 20 in the world over a year.
“I’ve experience a solid year, really seeing what it’s like to be a professional tennis player. I love it,” she began. “I think I’ve shown to myself how mentally strong I can be and today was really a mental battle. I fought through. I’m pretty solid at that; and, I think I’ve improved it in the past year.”
This will be Bouchard’s second foray into the quarterfinals of Family Circle Cup. She qualified in 2013 on her initial trip to Daniel Island, but ran into Jankovic in the quarterfinals, losing quite definitively 62 61.
Unlike the 33-year-old Venus Williams, Jankovic has fended off the young set in this draw. Today she defeated Ajla Tomljanovic, a 20-year-old from Croatia, 75 61. And as the luck of the draw would have it, Jankovic faces Bouchard in the quarterfinals tomorrow.
“I keep playing all of those up-and-coming players,” Jankovic said. “So far I’ve played two of them, now another one. Three rounds, three young players. You know, it’s good. It keeps me young as well. They are so tough. We played last year. So we’ll see. I’ll try to play my tennis and have fun out there.”
Jankovic beamed about the prospect of playing doubles later this evening with her friend Andrea Petkovic.
“I’m excited for that. That’s my highlight of the day,” she began. “I think we make a great team. So hopefully we’ll play again.”
Jankovic won this tournament in 2007, was runner-up to Serena Williams last year and has been ranked No. 1 in the world. Jankovic slipped off the top spot, but has steadily worked her way back up. She is coached by her brother, Marko Jankovic, which has helped her know herself more on court and use her own qualities to compete. One being fun, quite clearly.
“The better I play, the more I want to play,” she said. “The results keep pushing me to work even harder. I didn’t do well in Miami, so I had time to just work on my game. I feel I’m fresh and ready to go.”
Talk about young … Qualifier and 16-year-old Belinda Bencic from Switzerland will make her WTA debut in a quarterfinal tomorrow against Sara Errani, one of the quintessential clay courters of our time. Errani had a tough match today, defeating Shuai Peng 76(6) 76(5). Errani was up in both sets and watched her edge slip.
She said she didn’t not have to put her best competitive nature to the test because she is just that way.
“I love to compete, not only tennis [but also] outside the court with my coach,” Errani said. “We play so many games. Every time I love to compete, so I think it’s coming naturally.”
Bencic defeated Elina Svitolina this afternoon, 67(4) 64 61, in a battle between players we surely could see in future Grand Slams. Bencic said she was not surprised at her results so far this year; she thinks she belongs alongside the women, not in juniors.
“I’m very happy that it’s like this and I’m playing really well in this tournament, so yeah, I’m happy,” Bencic said today. “At the beginning it [the tour] was very new and just on court I was also very nervous, but now it’s a little bit more that I know everything.”
English is not Bencic’s first language, so when she said ‘I know everything’ we should probably take it lightly. However she seems to have an innate sense of her tennis abilities and a keen court sense that’s well beyond her years. She favored her backhand, and constructed points around it, taking advantage of ball placement from her opponent, Svitolina.
Jana Cepelova, the Serena Williams killer, advanced today, too. Usually when a young player — 20 — breaks through to defeat a champion, they bag out in the next round. Not Cepelova. She defeated the No. 13 seed and tour veteran, 76(4) 36 75. Daniela Hantuchova awaits Cepelova in the quarterfinals. Hantuchova will be 31 at the end of April. Her competitiveness will be tested, as will Cepelova’s.