Jelena will be 26 this coming February, the same age that Amelie Mauresmo was when she won her first Grand Slam title in 2006 at the Australian Open. The French phenom, was also No1 in the world for some time without one of the biggest tennis crowns to her name. Amelie was able to change her fortune, and so will Jankovic in 2011.
Why is this year so important for this Serbian star? Because no former No1 has ever won their maiden Grand Slam title at an older age then Mauresmo did at 26. If Jelena misses the mark next year, she will enter uncharted territory and have to win her first Grand Slam title being older than any of her WTA predecessors in history.
Of course it wouldn’t be the first time Jelena has accomplished something unprecedented in WTA tournaments and rankings. In 2008 she became the only No1 in history without an appearance in a Grand Slam final, a fact she erased few weeks later earning a spot in the US Open title match. As 2008 came to a close she was crowned as the first WTA World champion without a Grand Slam title, a fact that Jelena gets rash about whenever questioned in the media.
“Grand Slams are not the only tournaments in tennis. There are other big titles I have won”, seems to be Jelena’s stock answer when the question arises. I believe that deep down, she knows what the most important titles in tennis are, and won’t give up fighting until she has one of them.
After Jelena won the Indian Wells tournament earlier this year, she felt that 2010 would be her year. When she fought her way to the French Open semifinal it looked like she might be right. At that critical moment in her career at Roland Garros, she froze and potentially missed the best opportunity she’s had to win a Grand Slam title.
“The whole time I didn’t really have a rhythm. Stosur played really well. I felt heavy on my feet. I didn’t really move out there,” explained Jelena after what could have been the biggest Grand Slam opportunity and disappointment of her career.
The second half of 2010 brought no consolation for Jelena. She retired in the fourth round of Wimbledon because of her back, she retired in Portoroz because of an ankle injury. As a result she slid from 2nd to the 8th spot in the WTA ranking list. “I have never had so many injuries, my season was ruined,” she lamented recently when she returned home. “If I manage to stay healthy in 2011, I will be on top again.”
In order to fulfill that promise in 2011, which I believe she will, Jelena will need to stay healthy and win a Grand Slam Tournament. Before the 2011 season starts, she has one more challenge to solve, finding a coach. Jelena is the kind of player that performs at her highest levels when advised by top tennis minds. She reached No1 with Spaniard Ricardo Sanchez as her coach. She won Indian Wells this year and went to No2 with Chip Brooks at her side. Currently entering the 2011 season she is coachless, and has been since the summer time, perhaps a major reason for her slide in the second half of the season.
Editor’s note: As of December 16th, 2010, Jelena Jankovic reached an agreement with former Romanian tennis player Andrei Pavel to engage in a coaching partnership.
Jelena’s made a great move this off season to improve her strength and endurance to avoid injury by obtaining the services of a new fitness expert. Dejan Popovic is a black belt Judo fighter who has worked with many different sports champions. He was recommended by Mladjan Janovic, Jelena’s boyfriend, himself a member of the water polo team of Montenegro.
With a new dedication to training, a new coach, and a new determined outlook in 2011, Jelena Jankovic will be a player to watch.