Jelena Jankovic is one of a handful of players who have ascended to #1 in the world only to suffer through a prolonged slump in subsequent years. Dinara Safina is likely retired after a debilitating injury. Ana Ivanovic is gamely working to recapture some of the form that brought her French Open glory. Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki is the newest face of the underachieving #1.
Thankfully, Jelena seems to have turned the tide in her favour once more. After some promising results in 2013, she’s now beaten Victoria Azarenka in her opening match at the WTA Championships. Although Victoria claims fatigue, the 6-4 6-3 win over the world #2 is still a mightily impressive result for the resurgent Serb.
I am positive the WTA is better with Jankovic near the top of the game. She brings a flare and quirkiness that is often missing with some of the top players. She’s also very funny.
Case in point:
Then there’s this anecdote from Courtney Nguyen:
Saw JJ today. Welcomed her to Istanbul. “I bring the light,” she says. Then walks away and yells “And the joy!” over her shoulder.
It’s a tricky proposition to attain the level of success that Jankovic did and then have to find yourself all over again. Hopefully we are witnessing a resurgence that will stick for the next few years.
It’s altogether too easy to cast aside players like Jankovic as washed up or having “lost it”. We must acknowledge just how difficult it is to become a top player, and how doubly hard it is to do it all over again. The fact is that the women’s game is very deep. At any given tournament, a Bouchard or Halep could be waiting in the opening rounds - while they aren’t world beaters (yet), they provide stiff competition.
That Jankovic has managed to qualify for the WTA Championships is testament to a steely will that manifested a solid 2013 season. Her straight sets win over Azarenka must feel like a fruitful realization of the progress she’s been making in recent months. She now stands a good chance of making the final four of the Championships - this after making the final of Shanghai in her previous start.
Currently #8, this will be the first time since 2010 that Jelena finishes the year ranked inside the top-10, having fallen to as low as #22 to end 2012. Hopefully she can take advantage of the improved ranking and easier early round matchups that it will bring.
The WTA promises to be very bright and joyful with Jelena back in good form!