By Erik Gudris/ Monday, October 7, 2013
Jelena Jankovic finds herself back in the top 10 and heading to Istanbul. Tennis Now's Erik Gudris writes about the unexpected yet welcome comeback of the former No. 1.
Photo Credit: AP
Whether she is called "Glitter," "J.J." or "Drama Queen," the fact remains that Jelena Jankovic is back. After spending the last two years outside of the conversation of who is among the elite tier of women's tennis, the former No. 1 finds herself once again inside the top 10 and heading to the end of season WTA Championships.
READ - Sharapova Withdraws; Errani, Kvitova Jankovic Qualify for Istanbul
It's been an unexpected but welcome comeback from the Serbian, who continues to enjoy marquee status as one of the WTA's biggest stars. Not only for her tennis, but for her larger-than-life personality that often brings laugh out loud moments on the court and off the court during her press conferences.
But Jankovic would be the first to tell anyone it was no laughing matter as she struggled with confidence and her own fitness in the middle of 2012. At one stage, Jankovic was ranked outside the top 30 with many thinking her best days were behind her. It wasn't until the early part of this year that Jankovic made some eyebrow-raising decisions that ultimately paid off.
Searching for wins, Jankovic competed at the Bogota WTA international level event back in mid-February. Though she struggled during the week, Jankovic went on to claim the title, her first in over three years.
Her next decision was even bolder. Jankovic upgraded her own brother Marko from working as a part-time hitting partner to being her full-time coach. Again many wondered if Jankovic was making the right decision. But under Marko's eye, Jankovic began to show life again on the big stages as she made the semis of Miami a month later.
Jankovic backed that up with a run to the Charleston finals where she lost in three sets to eventual champion Serena Williams. En route, Jankovic posted a milestone 500th career victory and talked about her renewed commitment to the sport.
"I'm working hard every day just trying to get to another level and just overall become a better player and my goal is to get back to the top rank where I was before. That's my goal."
In addition to getting fitter and spending more time on the practice courts, Jankovic also committed to toning down her famous outbursts in a match. Or at least trying to.
Jankovic said in Charleston she wanted to keep her emotions in check so they wouldn't drain so much energy out of her in tight situations. So far she's been sticking to her promise. Though her on-court monologues when she gets frustrated still pop up now and then, to fans' delight, it's now all about less drama and more victories for the always chatty Jankovic.
While Jankovic reached the French Open quarters, it was her results on the hard courts that provided the boost she needed back to the top 10. Another semifinal showing in Cincinnati proved Jankovic was getting more consistent at the big events. But it was her run to the China Open finals this past weekend that helped cement her top 10 status and book her place in Istanbul.
When asked in Beijing if she felt reborn in 2013, Jankovic said, "Yes, it feels great to be, you know, first of all back in the top 10. I've worked very hard. I think in the beginning of the year I was close to 30 in the world, and I've come a long way. I worked very hard and I really gave the best on my training sessions and in my matches just to get my confidence back and that belief that I can be the top player again and do well again. So I think this year was a great year for me as far as coming back and making that step forward."
So what's next for Jankovic? Probably figuring out how she can rise to top four status or higher. To do that, she will have to start beating those women already there. So far in 2013, Jankovic is 0-5 against the likes of Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. Finding the answers to defeating them will be key for Jankovic's hopes to climb higher next year.
While she is known for bringing the laughs, it's been even more enjoyable to watch Jankovic bring back her trademark game this season. If she maintains her new commitment and isn't afraid to continue making some bold decisions when it comes to her career, we just might see even more "glitter" decorate the courts next year.
Follow Erik Gudris on Twitter @ATNtennis