Frustration at her opponent’s resolve and a lack of sleep led to a mid-match bout of crankiness from eighth seed Jelena Jankovic in her eventual straight sets win over Japan’s Kurumi Nara, on Hisense Arena.
“I worked hard physically and mentally,” said Jankovic of the 6-4, 7-5 victory over the 22-year-old baseliner. “I got so frustrated out there. I am sorry for yelling all over the place, I didn’t play too well today and my opponent played well. I am lucky to get through.”
It should have been straightforward, a first year in the main draw at Melbourne for Nara against a Serb playing her 41st consecutive Grand Slam tournament.
The diminutive Japanese, ranked number 74, has no real record of success at majors, her best offering to date coming at the US Open last year when she lost in the third round, coincidentally, to Jankovic in two sets.
Jankovic, the former world number two, is on the comeback trail after a dip in the rankings that saw her fall to number 22 in 2012 but her seeding and game has been trending steadily upward for the past 12 months.
But the longer the set went on, the more the frustration got to Jankovic. First the sighs, then a shout and then the serve in the 170km plus territory. It took a lot just to hold serve in the first set, all first five games going to the receiver, a tendency to overhit by Jankovic the root of her early undoing.
It was with the score at 5-4 to Jankovic that the Serb chose the moment to hold her serve for just a second time in the set and the opening bout was hers, 6-4.
It had been a tentative beginning by both women, Jankovic patently the more physical but the desire to push and punish failing in its execution. Each time she smacked what should have been a winner, the feisty Nara clawed it back. The net result was invariably an even harder hit next time by Jankovic and invariably a miss.
Jankovic was becoming more and more agitated, a warning for on court coaching at 4-2 down in the second set alerting the crowd to her unease. “Jelena, if there’s any more communication, I’m going to have to do something,” said the umpire Kerrilyn Cramer.
The set meanwhile was drifting away from the Serb as Nara upped her attacking intent to force a 5-2 lead. It looked like a deciding set would prevail but a couple of overly eager drives for the baseline while attempting to serve out the set cost Nara dearly. A set point to Nara at 5-4 showcased the Japanese player's nerves even more as she hit high and beyond the baseline, her most glaring error of the day.
It was now a matter of time only after a break to love for Jankovic at 6-5, the Serb’s 10 years experience on the WTA tour pivotal as she held serve to move into a last eight clash with Romania’s Simona Halep, the number 11 seed and an altogether more testing proposition.
But who was Jankovic shouting at and why?
“I didn’t get the right amount of sleep and was really cranky,” she said. “It’s my fault. I was yelling at my brother Marko, he can put up with it. He does this face and I just want to slap it. I love him but on court he is the one who gets it all the time.”