The Dubai Duty Free Championships had begun with a string of one-sided results and bakery products. The first of Tuesday’s night matches finally produced a three setter and with that, the best match of the tournament; Jelena Jankovic won just her third match of the year so far, coming from a set and a break down to defeat last week’s St. Petersburg finalist, Belinda Bencic, 4-6 7-5 6-4 in two hours and 31 minutes. It was a really entertaining match and well worth a watch back if you’re pondering which match to catch up with from Dubai!
Bencic was very composed during the first set and didn’t face a break point on her serve, winning it, 6-4. As the match wore on, the composure faded somewhat! In her first service game of the second set, Bencic began to look a little tired… and understandably so having played Fed Cup two weekends ago and then heading straight into St. Petersburg where she played four matches. Bencic would stave off break points in that game to keep in touch. Against the run of play, Bencic got the first break of the second set with a really positive and aggressive game; however, she couldn’t back it up with Jankovic responding with an equally aggressive game and going on to win the next eight points to lead 5-4.
Bencic’s temper began to boil over; while she navigated past the first challenge of serving with scoreboard pressure, she eventually succumbed in a thrilling game at *5-6 where Jankovic took the set on her sixth set point. Bencic was so emotional on the changeover and had a heated chat with her father. I didn’t know what they saying but at the end I got the impression he said something like “just snap out of it!” as he promptly stormed off back into the stands. Bencic had looked, dare I say, calmer in some of her matches this year but she was visibly frustrated, perhaps stemming from tiredness due to such a heavy schedule of late.
Bencic should have broken in the first game of the third set but missed a makeable backhand on her third break point. The set went with serve right up until the end. Jankovic was always the one in control and looked the fresher with Bencic clearly struggling. Despite the impressive fight with Bencic producing some wonderful tennis with her back against the wall, saving seven break points across two service games, it wasn’t enough. She fell to her knees in anguish after another bruising point and Jankovic secured the victory on her first match point.
It was a super win for Jankovic and while she was not exactly clinical, converting just three out of 17 break points throughout the entire match, she was good value for the win. Her backhand down-the-line is still such a precious shot. Jankovic’s continues to show off a vastly improved serve and she dropped just eight points on her first serve in the second and third sets. I wish Jankovic had had this serve when she was at the top of the game because I do honestly believe she would have won a Slam with it. For Bencic, she needs the rest. I love how she always gives such heartfelt handshakes, even in this case, when she was in tears at the end. Unfortunately, this loss snapped a 16-match winning streak in three setters for Bencic!
This was a great match and is easily in my top five for the year so far. There were more errors than winners (96 unforced to 70 winners) but the entertainment and intensity lifted this match to be a very fun watch indeed. Jankovic progresses to the second round where she plays Andrea Petkovic. The pair haven’t played for nearly three years with Petko leading the head-to-head, 4-2. No idea who wins, but i’m sure it will end with a nice embrace! I’ll leave you with some tweets from the JJ-BB match and a classic Petko-JJ video to get you hyped up for their clash tomorrow…