Is Jelena Jankovic back? That’s the big question that tennis fans seem to be asking themselves over the last month as the former No. 1 appears to be turning the corner in her career that saw her fall out of the top ten and not win a title in over three years until she won the WTA 125 event in Bogota. Of course, Jankovic went through a similar phase this time last year when it looked like she was poised to do something but then ended up with so-so results for the rest of the season that included reaching two finals in Eastbourne and Dallas.
But with her run to the semis of Miami a few weeks ago and having grinded out several tough wins so far in Charleston, plenty are hoping that Jankovic can push herself higher up the rankings. And not just because of her tennis. Jankovic is well-known for having one of the most dramatic and often times entertaining personalities on tour and fans seem to be hungry for more “J.J.” or “Glitter”, as her unofficial nickname goes. But Jankovic herself doesn’t feel that she seeks out to be an entertainer on court.
“When I step on the court it’s like I turn into a totally different person. It’s like I become, I don’t know how to say, the dragon that spits fire every time. It’s like it really is,” said Jankovic after a tough three set win over Caroline Garcia. “I make a mistake and I’m like spitting fire, like yelling and doing all this. But it’s really like two personalities. I don’t know. And it’s when I’m there I’m fighting, I’m falling, I’m losing, I’m winning, I’m getting frustrated. But as soon as I step off the court I’m like, okay ‑‑ I actually never swear off the court, and then on the court, I mean, the umpires, I mean, I speak, I swear inside myself, like I’m just getting mad, but that’s like on the court it’s something different, I don’t know how to explain it. But I think a lot of the players are like that. “
Though she got blown out by Maria Sharapova in the semis of Miami, partially due to terrible scheduling that forced her to play two matches in less than 24 hours, Jankovic still has a marquee name that draws attention even though her ranking is not what it used to be. And while fans may enjoy her larger-than-life personality during matches, for Jankovic it’s not so much being an entertainer but being part of the elite of the game that motivates her even more. And that means practicing even harder now, even it’s not her favorite thing to do. After her recent injury in Australia this January, Jankovic rededicated herself to training.
“Just overall I made up my mind I really want to improve and get back up there. And I just have to give a hundred percent on the practice court and as well, it will sort of give me the results when I play in matches. So, so far so good. And I just want to do it. I enjoy competing, I enjoy playing and the satisfaction that I get from winning matches, it’s a great reward. So I don’t mind ‑‑ then I don’t mind practicing as many hours as possible when I finally when I shake the hand of my opponent and I’m the winner and that’s what drives me, that’s what, you know, pushes me to go forward.”
If all her extra hard work off the court will help her challenge the likes of Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka is still a big question that Jankovic will have to answer. Despite having achieved incredible success that has allowed her to become one of the tour’s biggest stars and the monetary perks that come along with it — including that massive house she is still building out near San Diego, Jankovic, now 28, appears not satisfied with what’s she done in the past. To become a continuing factor once again at events like Miami and at the Majors, will Jankovic have to become more serious on court as well, perhaps depriving fans of the “J.J.” that they have grown to love? While fans may tell her ‘never change!’, Jankovic admitted she may have to reign in her often over the top emotions to get where she wants – back at the top.
“It’s important to have the self control and that’s something that right now ‑‑ I used to be much better before and now as I’m getting older, I’m getting worse and worse, behaving much worse on the court. And I don’t know if it is because I really want to come back, I really want to come back to the top. And I really, I always cared and I care so much right now and it’s just I want to do ‑‑ I want to do well.”