Jankovic’s Quiet Resurgence
Published October 05, 2013 12:00
But while Williams and her ever-lengthening list of achievements has been grabbing most of the headlines, Jankovic's progress through the draw and into her biggest final since 2011 has slipped under the radar somewhat.
Victory over Williams will change all that, of course, and add a deserving fanfare to what has been a season of quiet resurgence.
Having begun the year outside the Top 20 and without a title since 2010, within the a couple of months Jankovic had rid herself of both of these unwanted statistics thanks to victory in Bogotá and encouraging performances at Indian Wells and Charleston.
More success was to follow, with a quarterfinal appearance at the French Open and several impressive runs on the North American hardcourts propelling her back into the Top 10 and within touching distance of the place at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul.
Once a fixture at the season-ending showpiece - she qualified for four straight years between 2007 and 2010 - Jankovic is in prime position to end her exile following her exploits in the Chinese capital.
Next week, she will leapfrog Angelique Kerber into the eighth position in the race for Istanbul, a feat that is a source of pride - and a little surprise - for the 28-year-old.
"I think this year was a great year for me as far as coming back and making that step forward," Jankovic said after her win over Petra Kvitova in the semifinals. "Now I think I'm almost close to making the Championships, which in the beginning of the year I thought it wasn't even my goal. I didn't think I could make it.
"But now I'm probably so close to it. I hope that I will be in the Top 8 so I can compete there, which is a great achievement for me this year."
When quizzed on the key to her turnaround, Jankovic's answer was a simple one: hard work.
"Yes, it feels great to be first of all back in the top 10 and maybe in the Championships too," she said. "You know, 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."
And on the back of these performances, the Serb goes into not only the final but next season with a spring in her step. "What I have achieved gives me great motivation for next year to do even better and work even harder and come back to the top where I've been before in the previous years. I'm very happy to be in the finals here at the China Open again, it brings back beautiful memories of lifting the trophy and being No.1 in the world.
"It's a special place for me in general and I enjoy playing here. I look forward to hopefully playing some good tennis because I'm going to need to play my best against Serena.
"She's a player that has had an amazing year - she's the best player in the world by far right now. But I've had wins against her in the past and I just have to believe in myself, I have to go on court thinking it's just another match and try to play my game."