Jelena Jankovic, Serbia`s forgotten star, eyes first Slam title
Novak Djokovic has the seven majors and $65 million in prize money while girl-next-door Ana Ivanovic sweeps up the mega-money endorsements.
New York: Novak Djokovic has the seven majors and $65 million in prize money while girl-next-door Ana Ivanovic sweeps up the mega-money endorsements.
But Jelena Jankovic is determined once again to prove that there is more to tennis in Serbia than her two high-profile compatriots.
Jankovic, like 2008 French Open champion Ivanovic, is a former world number one but has yet to finesse that ascent with a major title.
Now, the 29-year-old is back in New York where she reached her only Grand Slam final in 2008, two years after she romped through to the semi-finals.
On Friday, she was the first woman into the fourth round with a convincing 6-1, 6-0 win over Sweden`s Johanna Larsson and she is determined to thrive at a tournament she describes as her favourite Grand Slam.
Such is her affection for the city and its boisterous, high-energy event that even a fan`s impromptu, mid-match plea for a photo didn`t throw her out of her stride.
"There was a funny guy who was like, Hey, turn around. I want a picture of you. I was walking. And then another time after a couple of games, he goes, again, Hey, turn around. I need a picture," she said.
"I love playing the US Open. I had a lot of deep rounds here. It`s my favourite Grand Slam. I love the energy that this tournament has. The surface suits my game. The weather. I love being here."
Jankovic has been at least a semi-finalist at all the majors with the exception of Wimbledon, but the memories of her 10 previous visits to Flushing Meadows stir the emotions, especially when it has taken big performances to stop her.
Serena Williams got the better of her in the 2008 final while Justine Henin needed three sets to defeat her in the 2006 semi-finals.
Despite those setbacks, world number 10 Jankovic retains her hunger for the event which has already claimed Ivanovic as a second round victim this week.
"I was up against Justine Henin a set and 4-2, 40-15. I had the whole match in my hand and I was thinking about celebrating and I`m going in the finals. Of course at the time I was inexperienced. I didn`t know what`s happening. I was just a child," she recalled.
"When I`m older, I appreciate it a lot more. I`m more aware of what`s going on, what`s happening. When I was 19 I was super excited. I just wanted to be out there. I loved everything.
"Now I`m older. I`m playing against some of those girls I have been playing for years, and then, of course some youngsters. It`s a different experience. But I still enjoy it. You know, I love being here. I don`t take anything for granted."