Jelena Jankovic maintained her decision to take on elder brother Marko as her permanent coach was the catalyst for her 2013 comeback that has seen her qualify as one of the world’s top eight for the first time since 2010 in the season-ending TEB BNP Paribas–sponsored WTA Championships in Istanbul.
Three years ago Jankovic was ironically one of a trio of players flown to Istanbul for a public relations exercise just after the venue had been announced to succeed Doha, Qatar as the venue of the women’s calendar ending event. But she hadn’t gotten anywhere near to qualifying in the last two years and many thought her days as a top flight competitor had gone.
Her formative coach Nick Bollettieri even joked she’d had more coaches than he’d had wives (and he’s been married eight times). But after Jankovic couldn’t train for three weeks after tearing a muscle in Australia, she began working with her brother.
“When I was a little girl he was a tennis player and I wanted to be like him,” Jankovic recalled. “I guess that’s why I ended up doing what I did.
“But then he gave up competing and went to university. Then I didn’t think about it again as I had success but I never really found the right match in all the coaches I’ve tried in the last few years.
“Then I realized my brother knows me best. He knows my game best, knows my character and knows me as a person, what I like and don’t like. What annoys me, what makes me happy. He’s my blood. And it’s really worked.”
Marko Jankovic possessed a positive attitude that perhaps hadn’t always been the case for his sister in recent years and she recalled: “He told me from the beginning that his goal was to bring me back to top ten.
“So with the hard work, we believed, I got new motivation and it gave me great satisfaction. Now all that hard work has paid off. I’m very happy.”
Jankovic became the world no.1 ranked player just prior to the US Open in 2008 but earlier this year she was struggling to hang onto a place in the top 30. She returned to the top 20 for the first time in almost two years following March’s Sony Open in Miami and soon after overtook Ana Ivanovic as Serbia’s leading female player.
“A lot of players do well for a few years but once they drop they never come back,”she maintained. “Now I’ve proved there is another story.
“I think this year has been great for me as far as coming back and making that step forward. Reaching the Championships is a great achievement for me. In January, I thought it wasn’t even my goal as I didn’t think I could make it.
“Now I want to reach the top five next year, then the top three again. Now I’ve made it to Istanbul, where it is the very best players competing, so I will try to produce my best tennis and go as far as I can.”
Now she exudes confidence and determination. Contemplating the upcoming action in Istanbul, she said: “It’s my fifth time playing the Championships, so I know what it takes to be here. But it’s a difficult road.
“It’s a lot of hard work and determination and sacrifice. But it’s do-able. Everything is possible. I’m one of those that it shows that you can come back. Hopefully I can continue in this way.”
And even though, at the age of 28 she is now one of the week’s more senior competitors, she retorted: “I’m one of the younger ones. I’m still below 30. I believe there is a lot of room for improvement in my game, and I think mentally, as well.”