Serbians Jankovic, Ivanovic win at Australian Open
Jelena Jankovic wonders if the recent return of two of tennis' biggest stars will help her improve her own chances at success.
Much attention at this year's Australian Open has been paid to Belgians Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin - both of whom are back in action after ending premature retirements.
``I think it's great for tennis that Kim and Justine are back,'' the former No. 1-ranked Jankovic said after breezing through her first-round match Tuesday against Romania's Monica Niculescu 6-4, 6-0.
``They always motivated me to work hard on my game. And I played some of my best tennis at the time they were playing,'' said the No. 8-seeded Serbian player.
``It doesn't really sound logical that I'm happy they're back ... (but) they always bring out the best in me.''
Jankovic had a memorable 2008. She rose to the top of the women's rankings in August of that year - a slot she held for most of the next five months - and was a runner-up to Serena Williams at the 2008 U.S. Open. At the time, she was considered one of the tour's top serve returners and retrievers. She has never reached another final at a major.
In 2009, Jankovic failed to advance beyond the fourth round at a Grand Slam.
She briefly struggled in her opening match Tuesday against No. 101-ranked Niculescu but she rebounded with powerful groundstrokes and well-placed serves.
``I made some errors in the beginning, and then I just tried to stay calm and just tried to focus. Then I came back into the game,'' the 24-year-old Jankovic said. ``I finished the job in two sets, and didn't need any more than that.''
She was buoyed by rowdy support from fellow Serbs who filled the stands at the Hisense Arena, the tournament's second show court.
``We have Serbian fans everywhere around the world. But I think here it's a little bit more,'' Jankovic said. ``They're more involved and very, very loud, which I really, really love.''
The Serbian contingent had double reason to cheer Tuesday, when 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic beat American Shenay Perry 6-2, 6-3.
The 22-year-old Ivanovic also held the No. 1-ranking in 2008 but is seeded 20th this year at Melbourne Park after a mediocre 2009. She lost the 2008 Australian open final to Maria Sharapova, but went out in the third round last year.
Ivanovic saved four break points in the final game before holding serve to take the match, which was played under mostly cloudy skies with a chilly wind blowing objects around the stands.
``It was very cold and windy,'' Ivanovic said. ``I just tried to work my way through, just taking time and trying to stay composed.''
``I'm very happy to have a victory,'' said Ivanovic, who has become a crowd favorite Down Under since she began dating Australian professional golfer Adam Scott. She didn't want to talk about Scott on Tuesday. When asked if he was in Melbourne to watch the tennis, as he had done at a warmup tournament in Brisbane, she replied, flatly: ``No. He's not here.''
Ivanovic, who won the 2008 French Open, when Henin opted against defending the title, didn't win a tournament last year and finished outside the top 20 after struggling late in the season with injuries. She has set herself the target of returning to the top 10.
Jankovic will face Britain's Katie O'Brien in the second round, and Ivanovic plays Argentina's Gisela Dulko, who beat Slovakian qualifier Zuzana Kucova 6-0, 5-7, 7-5.