Getting to Know: Jana Cepelova

When Jana Cepelova beat Serena Williams on Tuesday night at the Volvo Car Open, a fan asked her friend: “So she gets to move up the rankings for that, right?”

Not necessarily. The 20-year-old from Slovakia got no extra bonus points for beating the world No. 1 and three-time champion in Charleston, instead lacing up less than 48 hours later to play her third-round match against Elena Vesnina, another seed.

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But Cepelova survived that match, too, the World No. 78 advancing to the quarterfinals of a WTA event for just the fourth time in her career, a valiant follow-up to such a dramatic early-week win. She’ll look for her first-ever semifinal appearance.

Did Cepelova believe she could win before walking out on Billie Jean King Stadium Court Tuesday night?

“I was thinking, ‘I cannot win,’” she told reporters after.

But she did, racing out to a 5-0 lead against Williams in the first set before closing out a 6-4, 6-4 shocker with plenty of grit and a few deft drop shots.

Cepelova says she loves the clay season, making her first-ever trip to Charleston this year, a trip that her Slovakian coach, Martin Zathurecky, did not make.

“He’s not here, but he’s home and of course watching,” she explained. “And his favorite player – after me – is Serena.  And I asked him before the match [who he would cheer for].  And he said, ‘Of course, you.’”

Zathurecky would be right in cheering for Cepelova over Serena, even if he did have to choose favorites. Cepelova played Tuesday night with countrywoman Janette Husarova as her coach, a 38-year-old doubles specialist who was in Charleston playing doubles.

It’s another Slovakian that Cepelova plays on Friday night in the quarterfinals: former world No. 5 Daniela Hantuchova. Their countrywoman Dominika Cibulkova has surged lately, making the Australian Open final in January. So far, it’s been a pretty good year for Slovakian tennis.

Who did the Kosice, Slovakia, native look up to as a girl?

“Always Rafael Nadal and from [the WTA], Martina Hingis, because she was born in [my hometown],” Cepelova said. “And I really like her game and all, slices and everything.”

Fifteen years after Hingis won here in 1999, Cepelova looks to emulate her and walk away with the Volvo Car Open title. And, to that fan and her friend wondering about bonus points, give Jana the chance to move up the rankings.