Jankovic, Kuznetsova sweat out 3-setters to avoid early US Open upsets

By Eddie Pells, AP
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jankovic rallies to avoid early US Open upset

NEW YORK — Jelena Jankovic needed a comeback to hold off an 18-year-old and Svetlana Kuznetsova had to go three sets to edge out an opponent nearing 40. Both did their job to avoid upsets Tuesday in the sweltering first round of the U.S. Open.

The fourth-seeded Jankovic, a finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2008, overcame a late break in the third set to defeat Simona Halep of Romania 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Earlier, 11th-seeded Kuznetsova defeated 39-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm of Japan 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. Krumm, who turns 40 on Sept. 28, was trying to become the third-oldest woman to win a U.S. Open match since the Open era began in 1968.

Jankovic and Kuznetsova both overcame their opponents and hot, humid, blustery weather, with temperatures reaching into the 90s. Tournament officials put their extreme weather policy in place for women’s singles, meaning players can ask for a 10-minute break after they split sets.

“The conditions were tough,” Jankovic said. “But I didn’t want to think about that. I just wanted to focus as much as I could on the match and play each point one point at a time.”

Halep was serving for the match ahead 5-4 in the third set but Jankovic broke her en route to the final three games. Ranked fifth in the world coming into the U.S. Open, Jankovic could overtake Serena Williams at No. 1 by winning it all this year. She’ll need to clean things up, after making 48 unforced errors in a match that went 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Next up for Jankovic is a second-round match against Mirjana Lucic, who defeated Alicia Molik 7-6 (5), 6-1.

Lucic was an up-and-coming star in the ’90s, winning her first tournament as a pro at age 15. Family issues and money problems forced her out of the game and she is now on the comeback, playing at her first U.S. Open since 2003.

“My dream never died and never went away,” she said. “I was just waiting for an opportunity.”

Other winners Tuesday included ninth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 18 Aravane Rezai and No. 15 Yanina Wickmayer, a semifinalist at last year’s U.S. Open.

On the men’s side, No. 23 Feliciano Lopez advanced, while 16th-seeded Marcos Baghdatis fell 6-3, 2-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-5 to Arnaud Clement of France.

Slated to play later Tuesday were Maria Sharapova and both top seeds — Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki, who will headline the evening action at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Both will have to come up with something very special to top the shot Roger Federer hit during his 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Brian Dabul on Monday night. Running backward to chase down a lob and running out of room behind the baseline, Federer hit a clean winner through his legs.

It was the shot of the day — maybe of the tournament — and it nearly duplicated a shot he hit last year in a semifinal win against Novak Djokovic.

“This one was incredible again,” Federer said. “I turned around and couldn’t believe the shot landed in the corner.”

Federer is seeking his seventh straight trip to the final and sixth title at the U.S. Open, while Nadal needs a victory at Flushing Meadows to complete the career Grand Slam.

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