New York: Former world number one Jelena Jankovic has not lost hope that her maiden grand slam victory will come, but she will need to stay healthy and raise the level of her game to capture this year`s US Open.
In her buildup to Flushing Meadows, the 25-year-old Serbian world number five has not inspired hope that she will return to the US Open final this year with her play on North American hardcourts falling flat in recent tournaments.
Jankovic suffered an ankle injury in July that forced her to retire from a tournament in Slovenia and has since lacked confidence, including during her opening match last week in Montreal where she was the top seed.
But after being forced to retire at Wimbledon with a back injury during a match against eventual finalist Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round, Jankovic is looking forward to the change of pace and rowdy crowds at the year`s final grand slam.
"I like playing on hard courts and especially the US Open, it`s a grand slam and the place I`d like to do well," Jankovic, the runner-up at the 2008 US Open, told Reuters. "Two years ago I was a finalist and I reached the semi-finals (in 2006). I would like to take one more step."
Jankovic has been mired in a slump since losing in the semi-finals of the French Open in June and has been unable to regain her normal foot speed and accuracy off the ground.
During the first half of 2010 Jankovic won at the Indian Wells WTA tournament in March over world number two Caroline Wozniacki, and then beat Serena and Venus Williams at the Italian Open in May before losing the final.
But she has not beaten a top 25 player since Wimbledon and has been playing below the level that helped propel her to the number one ranking in 2008.
"I twisted my ankle, and it`s tough when you have something like that," said Jankovic. "It takes time for it to recover and you can`t really train. But then it becomes mental, so you have to loosen up and feel confident with that ankle so you can move without thinking."
Early exits at recent tournaments has limited Jankovic`s match play heading into the Aug. 30-Sept. 12 US Open and she may find it tough to find her rhythm on the speedy hardcourts at Flushing Meadows.
But with number one Serena Williams out of the US Open with a foot injury, two-times champion Venus not having played since Wimbledon with a knee injury and former champions Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova having suffered recent injuries, Jankovic feels the US Open field is wide open.
"Things can be better, but things can be worse as well and I have to be satisfied with what I`ve done and move forward," said Jankovic.
"There are so many players who are strong that anything can happen ... we don`t have that many events left so I want to finish as strong as possible. I`m praying health will be all right so I can do my best."