Jelena Jankovic opened her title defense in the BNP Paribas Open on Friday with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Coco Vandeweghe in the second round at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
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”I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Jankovic, who beat current No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki for the 2010 title. ”I knew that she kind of has a really big serve. She serves well and she hits her first shot, but there wasn’t a lot of rhythm out there. The points were very short so all I had to do was get the ball in play and kind of wait for my chances, and that’s basically what I did.
”I tried to make her hit a lot of balls and tried to rush her serve and start the point, and she made a lot of mistakes.”
Jankovic, a former No. 1 currently No. 6, has reached at least the semifinals of her past three tournaments after a stretch of six events in which she failed to win consecutive matches. To keep that streak of semifinals alive, Jankovic would have to beat likely opponents Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round and Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals.
The only woman to win here two years in a row was Martina Navratilova in 1990-91. Jankovic isn’t predicting she’ll repeat, but she does feel good about her chances.
”The last couple of weeks I’m starting to feel more confident with my game,’ she said. ”I was struggling with my foot (work), with my movement. I wasn’t moving well. I had no confidence in my game. My movement was not there. I was making a lot of unforced errors. I had a hard time on the court. I was basically a shadow of myself.”
Clijsters, the No. 2 seed who won at Indian Wells in 2003 and 2005, began moving toward what she hopes will be her sixth straight final appearance by overwhelming Alla Kudryavtseva 6-2, 6-0 in 51 minutes.
The Australian Open winner said ”everything could be better, of course,” but termed it a satisfactory effort for her first match outdoors in several weeks.
No. 3 Vera Zvonareva squandered a 5-1 lead in the second set before beating Timea Bacsinszky 6-3, 7-6 (4); No. 5 Francesca Schiavone topped Zuzana Ondraskova 6-2, 6-0; and No. 15 Marion Bartoli rallied from a set down to oust Monica Niculescu 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. Yanina Wickmayer eliminated Melanie Oudin 6-4, 6-3, and Shahar Peer beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3, leaving only young wild cards Sloane Stephens and Christina McHale left in the 11-member U.S. contingent that started the event.
In men’s first-round play, American veteran James Blake was a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 winner over Chris Guccione; Canadian Milos Raonic beat Marsel Ilhan 6-2, 7-6 (4); and Ryan Harrison outlasted Jeremy Chardy 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-3.
There was an unusually high amount of big names playing in the men’s doubles, with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all successfully negotiating their way through to the second round.