Jelena & Mirjana To Clash
Published August 31, 2010 12:00
NEW YORK, NY, USA - After a difficult summer lead-up, she was perhaps ripe for the picking. But playing at her best major, Jelena Jankovic's fighting spirit never waned, and the former No.1 battled hard to quell the uprising of rising star Simona Halep on Arthur Ashe Stadium on a hot Tuesday, 64 46 75.
Jankovic, the No.4 seed at the final Grand Slam of the season, battled for over two hours in scorching conditions, with Halep even serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set. But a few big down-the-line forehands and long rallies sealed it.
"Simona played really well. She was putting a lot of balls in the court and not making many mistakes, so I had to work for every point," Jankovic said. "I wasn't playing my best tennis. I was just trying to do my best to get through, and I'm really happy I was able to. It was a tough one for me."
Jankovic was 1-3 in the North American hardcourt season, losing early at San Diego, Cincinnati and Montréal (that one win came in Cincy): "I twisted my ankle in Portoroz and I was completely unprepared for the summer hardcourt season," Jankovic added. "I wasn't able to train and was moving really badly. But that's in the past now. I'm healthy and looking to build on my confidence."
Next up for Jankovic will be an intruiguing match-up against Mirjana Lucic, a former young gun who has been making her way back into the sport through qualifying draws and ITF Circuit events. She beat Alicia Molik, 76(5) 61.
"I've worked so hard to get here. It's my first US Open in, I don't know, seven years or something... it feels incredible," said Lucic, perhaps best known for her run to the semifinals of Wimbledon as a teenager in 1999. "When I say I've been working hard, I mean, also playing $25,000 events, qualies of every small tournament there is, and losing a lot of times. It was really hard. It felt like I climbed the mountain just to get through those. Now it feels so rewarding.
"My dream never died... I was just waiting for an opportunity. I have it now. I've been living my dream the last few years."
Lucic looks at things in a different way now that she's more experienced in life. "I'm 28 now. People are calling me a veteran, which is oh so depressing. I'm old at 28! But I just love it out there. I'm doing what I love, and I know there's still a lot of good tennis in me. That's what's pushing me, that's what keeps me going."