It was time for Jelena Jankovic to go home after she had raided the last remnants of her medicine cabinet. To the vast roll of bandages that had supported her left knee through the third round, where she jarred it, were added anti-inflammatories and an elaborate sticking plaster pattern which was draped around it yesterday. Tissues accompanied her out after each end change and when things were really looking down she grabbed at a pack of energy tablets thrust out by her coach.
There is nothing to take for a simmering sense of injustice, of course. The No 2 seed was cast out to Court 18 for her match with unseeded Tamarine Tanasugarn and her thoughts on that, delivered in Serbian during the course of a defeat that concluded Serbia's shot at either singles title this year, translated as: "They might as well have put me on Court 38."
Jankovic had much more to say on the subject in English after the match; insisting that she had asked to start late in the day in order to rest her knee and that a seed of her standing deserved Centre or Court One. "I was almost playing in the parking lot. I almost need a helicopter to go to my court," she said.
Tanasugarn, who has been eliminated from Wimbledon's fourth round enough times (five) to have probably had a second Monday airline ticket booked months ago, has struggled so long below elite level to have no conception of helicopter travel and Jankovic's inability to get past her was shocking – jarred knee or none; Centre Court or public park.
The Thai's second serve hovered around 73mph for much of the match and dipped to 69mph when she served for the match at 5-2 in the second set. Jankovic sent that one back out of court and it was characteristic of a performance riddled with unforced errors that she never punished the world No 60's patent lack of power.
The left knee had been subjected to MRI scans, steam therapies and ice packs before her match and had seemed inconspicuous until Jankovic looked in danger. But Tanasugarn tested it to the full, sending the Serbian east and west across the court, and it was when 5-2 down in the first set that Jankovic first prodded at it tentatively. Serving at 30-all in the next game, she also tried a racket change, which made more of a difference. But facing three set points in the eighth game the Serb stumbled at the back of the court. Within seconds, the first set was gone and the trainer was on.
Tanasugarn had problems of her own – she was briefly prostrate on court while her own trainer prodded away at her back – but Jankovic's frustration was telling.A shock finally looked on when Jankovic was broken again for a second time in the second set. She rallied to break back for 5-2 but it was too late to stop a 6-2 pasting.
Jankovic, like Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic, seems to be suffering from the overwhelming mental effects of her rapid rise to fame and Serbian Tennis Federation president Slobodan Zivojinovic, who looked on, knew it. "They all need to rest a little," he said.
Tanasugarn does not need rest. She spent a good 10 minutes posing for Far East tennis fans after the match and her victory, taking her through to play Venus Williams, is another development in a wonderful fortnight for Asian tennis, with Zheng Jie also progressing to within one win of becoming the first Chinese player to make a Grand Slam singles semi-final. But Tanasugarn is no Zheng Jie. Her views on facing Williams – "She's always kicked my butt; I'm just happy to be in the quarters" – reveals how unexpected her progress is.
Jankovic drew Venus Williams, consigned to Court 2 yesterday to face Russian Alisa Kleybanova, into her attack on the Wimbledon Referees' Office. "I don't know what they are doing, [putting] Venus on No 2 and I'm on No 18," she said. But while the Serbian is going home Williams is easing towards a final and can seemingly play anywhere, dispatching Kleybanova 6-3, 6-4 in less than an hour and a half. Serena was similarly untroubled, seeing off Bethanie Mattek 6-3, 6-3.