MELBOURNE — The temperature on Rod Laver Arena was more than 100 degrees. Even more sizzling were the shots coming off 21-year-old Croatian Jana Fett’s racquet. As she piled up point after point in the third set of her second-round match versus Caroline Wozniacki, it seemed to mean little that she was in the second round of a major for the first time, or that Wozniacki was the number two seed and Fett was currently ranked 119.
“She was getting a lot of balls back,” said Wozniacki. “Felt like I hit some good shots, and she would keep coming up with these great comebacks.”
Fett had won the first set, 6-3, in brisk fashion. Per usual, Wozniacki trailed in the winners department in the first set—just four for the Dane, 13 for Fett.Wozniacki leveled, 6-2, aided by 19 unforced errors from Fett. With that ethereal but useful concept of momentum in Wozniacki’s corner, as the third set began, a veteran victory seemed apparent.
But alas, such is Wozniacki: She can hang, but can she bang? Wozniacki’s brand of passivity has all too frequently surfaced on the big occasion. Rarely able to step on the pedal, through the first part of the third set, Wozniacki fluttered balls that were short and unconvincing.
“I was really aggressive and winning all the points I had to win,” said Fett of this stretch.
It was a beautiful sight. The Croatian spray-painted the court with an array of sharp angles, down-the-line drives and also frequently attained superior length with her returns—on many occasions the deep, down-the-middle question that pressed Wozniacki into a rather tepid answer.
Point after point, game after game, Fett was the bank, one check cashed after another. Up she went, 5-1, then 40-15.
At that point, said Wozniacki, “I felt like I was one foot out of the tournament.”
Fett’s first serve on that first match point was nearly an ace. But instead, a rally closed with a wide backhand.
“Then I felt her tighten up just slightly," said Wozniacki. "I thought to myself, ‘You know what, at this point, make her win it, don't give it to her.’"
On match point number two, another Fett backhand, this one into the net. A long backhand, and soon Wozniacki had broken and held at love.
Serving at 5-3, 30-15, Fett double-faulted. At 30-all, Fett tried for too much on a down-the-line forehand. And then, holding a point to get back on serve, Wozniacki showed the kind of opportunism more often seen from the likes of Agnieszka Radwanska. Aware that Fett was off balance and likely to float the ball, Wozniacki charged forward for an eminently makeable forehand volley that she clipped down the line for a winner. At 4-5, Wozniacki leveled the match with a 100 mph ace. She’d won 16 of 20 points.
From there, pun intended, it was a fait accompli:
“I got a little bit tight,” admitted Fett.
Cinderella at the ball, turned into a pumpkin. Balls Fett had struck crisply withered, signs of nerves and sluggish footwork. Wozniacki continued to bear down, breaking handily, closing it out at 15. All told, she’d won 24 of the last 31 points.
Within Wozniacki beats a tenacity that belies her kindly demeanor. Asked to site its source, Wozniacki said, “I think growing up in a sporty family where everyone is competitive and you hate to lose. If you lose a game to anyone in my family, you're going to hear about it for at least a week.
"That definitely helped me. . . You don't give up, even if it's a board game, tennis, soccer, whatever it is.”
Or, while trailing 5-1 in the third, down two match points.