By Blair Henley | Sunday, May 25, 2014
Is Jelena Jankovic a legitimate contender for the Roland Garros title? She sure thinks so. Jankovic sat down with Tennis Now before kicking off her campaign in Paris.
(Photo Credit: Family Circle Cup)
PARIS – After her ranking dropped outside the top 30 in 2012, it was easy to assume that Jelena Jankovic’s best days were behind her. Those who discounted the Serb as a “slamless” No. 1 used her freefall as confirmation that her banner year in 2008 was no more than a fluke.
But with the help of her brother turned coach, the 29-year-old has battled back into the top 10 and into contention at Roland Garros. As one of the most entertaining players on the tour, we’re certainly not the only ones who hope to see the current world No. 7 slide her way into the second week of play in Paris.
We caught up with Jankovic at an appearance for her sponsor Prince Tennis where she and fellow Prince player Taylor Townsend signed autographs and hit balls with fans on an indoor mini-court. As usual, there was lots of laughing involved as she spoke of her relationship with her brother Marko, her newly completed California mansion and why she doesn’t have a bucket list.
We’re in Paris for the French Open. What’s your favorite part about being in this amazing city?
Playing at the French Open (laughs)! That’s why I’m here. I’m here to compete and hopefully do well. I love playing on clay especially here in Paris. It’s a very special place and such a prestigious tournament. My goal is to get to the finals and win it, that’s my dream. I’m a three-time semifinalist here and a quarterfinalist last year.
Where is the strangest place you’ve found clay after a match here?
In my mouth. In my ears. In my hair. It happens quite often that I fall down or slip. It goes everywhere: in your hair, in your ears, in your mouth…all over my body. In my eyes all the time, especially when it gets windy. There is no one place. It is everywhere.
We all know you like to talk to yourself on the court. Do you also talk to yourself in real life?
No, I’m not that crazy (laughs). I have a good sense of humor, and I like to have a good time. I’m a very emotional person, and I like to show my emotions on court. Off the court, I’m a completely different person, basically two different personalities. One that goes on court and is competitive, yells, and does all kinds of stuff. Then I laugh at that person when I get off the court. I’m quite a normal, normal girl. I do everything people my age do.
If my brother coached me, I’m pretty sure it would end in a fistfight. What is the relationship like with your brother as your coach? Can he criticize you?
It’s a nice combination. Last year I had a good season, but the seasons before that I was not doing so well. It was nice to have that change, and have him come help me out.
We are working so well together. We love each other. Who is going to wish the best for me other than my own brother, my family? He’s such a nice brother. I yell at him on the court for no reason and the poor guy has to take it, but he knows it’s nothing personal. It’s just letting my frustration out. I don’t mean half of the things I say, so he knows. I’m trying to cut that down and have a little more self-control, so I can behave a little better. That’s my goal.
I’ve seen some photos of your new house in California. It’s impressive. What is your favorite part?
My favorite part is, well, there are so many nice parts. I don’t know what to choose! I have a beautiful tennis court. I have a wine room. My master bedroom is beautiful. There are so many beautiful places – I cannot choose one. There are lots of places I don’t go to, either.
How many people have invited themselves to come visit you since the house was completed?
Quite a lot, quite a lot (laughs). They are welcome.
What is your best tennis memory?
In 2008, when I finished the year as the No. 1 player in the world.
What is your worst tennis memory?
I don’t like to keep that in my mind. All these bad things, I erase them from my memory, and the good things I keep them with me for life.
If you could have dinner with three tennis players, past or present, who would they be?
Monica Seles, John McEnroe and Patrick Rafter.
Do you have a bucket list? A list of things you want to do before you die?
No, I do not make that list. I’m not planning to die yet. (Listen to the hysterical laughter that followed this answer in the Vine below.)
I know you’re very close with your mother. You’re a grown woman now, but are there still things you do that make her upset with you?
She yells at me all the time for yelling at my brother on court. All the time! She’s always calling on the phone saying, “Did I not tell you not to swear on the court? Not to yell?” She’s like, “Did I educate you that way?”
When I was traveling with her, I never did that. Now that I’m with my brother, I started doing this, and so she’s yelling at me, telling me to stop. And I agree! I’m trying to control it. But she’s a great mom. She has raised three kids, and I think she’s the best mom in the world. I love my mom. I wish she could be able to still travel with me and my brother, but she’s tired of being on the tour. She did it for 15 years, but now she’s home with the rest of the family.
What makes you happy in life?
Many things. Good food! I’m very humble. I don’t need expensive things to make me happy. Little things make me happy. Having good family, friends and good food. Just healthy and happy, that’s all I need. Very little.
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