Jankovic enjoying her resurgence
Jelena Jankovic laughs and smiles and exudes the confidence of a top-ranked player, even though she’s not right now and hasn’t been since 2008.
Maybe it’s the years of media experience the veteran has had that allow us to see what she wants us to see, or maybe it’s just a beautiful, breezy, 80-degree day in Charleston — which recently was voted the USTA’s Best Tennis Town. But Jankovic wants to make it clear she’s happy with her resurgence and with where her career is headed.
“I feel motivated,” Jankovic said Monday. “I’m healthy. I can go on court and do my job and I’m happy.”
Jankovic is the No. 3 seed at this week’s Family Circle Cup. She received a bye and awaits American hopeful Melanie Oudin or Austria’s Tamira Paszek in the second round. The tournament is played on green clay and officially kicks off the clay-court season heading into May’s French Open, where Jankovic is a three-time semifinalist.
“I didn’t grow up on clay, but I feel my game suits it,” Jankovic said.
Plagued by an ankle injury last year, Jankovic is now fully recovered and ready to climb back to the top. Earlier this year she brought on former Romanian men’s star Andrei Pavel to help elevate her game. The partnership seems to be working. Before her practice session Monday at the Family Circle Center, Jankovic and Pavel were running around, laughing and kicking tennis balls in a mock soccer match and just goofing around.
But once on the court, even though the pair continued laughing, the drills were focused and repetitive.
Maybe Pavel’s style is working for her. Or maybe through her injury, the 26-year-old gained a new perspective.
“There are times I thought I’d never be able to play or be good again,” Jankovic said. “I didn’t appreciate it when I was No. 1. I thought it’s just what you did. Now I realize that [being No. 1] was not normal.”
Despite early losses in Sydney and Melbourne, Jankovic has reached the semifinals in Dubai and Doha (losing to eventual winners Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva), the quarterfinals in Key Biscayne (losing to Andrea Petkovic) and the final in Monterrey (losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova). At Indian Wells she lost in the fourth round.
The Serbian is making a comeback at a time when her compatriots — Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic and Serbian-born German national Petkovic — are making a lot of noise. Djokovic just won back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne and hasn’t lost a match all year. Ivanovic has picked up her game and Petkovic beat Jankovic in the Key Biscayne quarterfinals.
“We kind of push each other to do better,” Jankovic said. “When we started we didn’t have anyone (to do that with). It’s great!”
Addie Rising is a tennis editor for FOXSports.com.