Ana Ivanovic leads Jankovic in Serbian rivalry
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)
Ana Ivanovic describes their relationship as a healthy rivalry.
Jelena Jankovic says they have moved on from the past - particularly an unfortunate video clip in which she was caught mocking Ivanovic - and they get along fine.
Both are from Serbia and in their 20s. Both once held the No. 1 ranking and seemed headed for future tennis stardom, a destiny that both are still striving to fulfill.
On Friday Ivanovic, who already owns one Grand Slam title, took a step toward her dream of winning the Australian Open by beating Jankovic 7-5, 6-3 in a third-round match she described as ''a battle.'' Throughout the match the 25-year-old Ivanovic punctuated winning points with her trademark fist pumps.
''It was intense from the first moment to the last,'' said Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion who has always seems to have received more attention than Jankovic, partly because of her tennis and partly because of her celebrity good looks and high-profile boyfriends. She's dating Australian pro golfer Adam Scott, which gives her hometown credentials and made her the crowd favorite on Friday.
The No. 13-seeded Ivanovic took an early lead, surging to 5-2 in the first set. She then lost the next three games as Jankovic fought back, trying to wear down Ivanovic by sending her sprinting around the court on long baseline rallies. Ivanovic broke serve to pull ahead 6-5 and in the last game won a hard-fought point on a 26-shot rally. She won the set with an ace - after challenging a line call that had initially ruled the serve out.
Ivanovic had an easier time in the second set, wrapping it up on her second match point.
Both players hugged each other across the net and kissed on either cheek - and then faced reporters' questions about the state of their relationship these days.
''It's fine. It's really good,'' said Ivanovic, who has now won eight of their 11 career matches. ''Of course there is going to be rivalry, but I think there is a healthy rivalry, too, because you kind of push each other.''
Now Fed Cup teammates, the two helped Serbia to its first Fed Cup final in 2012.
''We had a good week in Prague for the final of the Fed Cup. We were hanging out a lot, you know, joking,'' Ivanovic said. ''It's nice, we've known each other for awhile.''
Asked if there was tension on the court Friday, Ivanovic replied: ''I think it's competitiveness. You have that with everyone you play, and especially someone coming from your country.''
Both players had a standout year in 2008. They played each other at the 2008 French Open semifinal, which Ivanovic went on to win and then captured the No. 1 ranking. She held the top spot for a total of 12 weeks that year.
Jankovic was a runner-up at the 2008 U.S. Open, where she lost to Serena Williams. She, too, claimed the No. 1 ranking that year, holding the spot for a total of 18 weeks but never winning a Grand Slam title.
Their competitiveness became public in 2010 after Jankovic beat Ivanovic at a tournment in Madrid and then mocked her. As Jankovic packed up her rackets on the court, she imitated Ivanovic's fist-pump - twice.
The gesture was caught on video and made its way back to Ivanovic, who was asked about the episode and took a subtle shot at Jankovic, saying at the time: ''Sport doesn't build character. It shows it.''
On Friday, the No. 22 seeded Jankovic said the rivalry has been blown out of proportion by the media.
''There's no problems,'' the 27-year-old Jankovic said. ''We get along, and we come from the same country. We speak the same language and we were in the same Fed Cup team.''
As for that video: ''It's the past,'' she said. ''There's nothing really personal. That's for sure.''
She complimented Ivanovic on a match well played and said her only regret was that it came so early at the Australian Open.
''It's just a shame to play each other so soon in the draw,'' she said. ''It's always better if we play each other in the finals or semifinals.''
Ivanovic faces a fourth-round match against Agnieszka Radwanska, who is seeded fourth and won her 12th match in a row with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Britain's Heather Watson.