One of the numerous complaints leveled at the WTA, in fact there’s so many of them one may need an extra hand to count them all, is the perceived lack of consistent rivalries between the elite players. And though fans would all love the top pros to meet each other more often, one rivalry that has emerged in the last year that now almost mandates “must-see” status is that of Jelena Jankovic versus Francesca Schiavone who once again provided another night of pure theatre in their quarterfinal match at the Brisbane International.
Their last two meetings in 2010, one at Roland Garros and the other in Cincinnati, provided fans with not only amazing tennis, but moments of drama, tension, hilarity and some of the best facial expressions in the sport. Last night was no exception. Jankovic was in control for most of the match, largely due to Schiavone’s dismal first serve percentage which hovered near 38% throughout the night. Jankovic served for the match at 5-3 in the second set, but let that set slip away from her in a tiebreak which then saw the Serbian star engage in a lengthy heart-to-head talk with her new coach Henner Nehles during the changeover that allowed fans a rare glimpse into Jankovic’s turbulent thought process despite the efforts of Nehles to keep her calm and focused for the third set.
Even though Jankovic went up an early break in the final set, she never looked confident while Schiavone always kept that steely look of “never say die” that has been her M.O. since winning the French Open in 2010. Schiavone broke Jankovic back and then added another break to cement her hold on the set for 5-3. Jankovic did save two match points against her but inevitably Schiavone held on to win the match in just under three hours 5-7, 7-6, 6-3.
Last night’s match was definitely the best one so far of the young WTA season. And one can only hope that Jankovic and Schiavone will get a chance to play each other more often in 2012. It surely would be the best show in town.