McCarvel: The Ivanovic-Jankovic Revival
Published May 31, 2014 12:12
PARIS, France - If it were up to Jelena Jankovic, she would gladly stand next to Ana Ivanovic in front of the Eiffel Tower again, Serbian flag strewn between them, a semifinal at Roland Garros looming.
"That would be cool," JJ said smiling in press on Wednesday, flashing that goofy grin that tennis fans are now used to, more because of charisma than for success.
It was six years ago that the two met in the final four in Paris, Ivanovic besting her compatriot 6-4 in the decider and eventually winning her lone Grand Slam, briefly grabbing the No.1 ranking.
But it was not a bad year for Jankovic; in fact, it may have been her best. Collectively, they were tennis' next "It" girls.
"2008 was a good year for both of us: I finished No.1 in the world and she won the French," remembered Jankovic, the No.6 seed this year. "Hopefully we can do it again this year and go far. That would be really awesome."
The journey itself has been long for both Jankovic, now 29, and Ivanovic, 26, since then. They were the darlings of the tennis media for 18 months, the story of Ivanovic being taught tennis in an emptied-out swimming pool being exhausted and Jankovic seen as a new iteration of a thinking game, the kind that never missed.
But then they fell - and hard. Ivanovic bottomed out at No.63 in the world while JJ never seemed to capture the form that made her a human backboard and backhand winner machine both at once. The two girls from Serbia became a one-Slam wonder.
Except back in Paris again this year, life has been breathed back into what they still could do in the sport. There is more talk this spring of a dual Ana and Jelena renaissance than since 2008.
Jankovic is safely inside the Top 10, working with her brother and seeming to have discovered what makes her happy on the tennis court and off of it. Ivanovic, too, has surrounded herself with familiarity, her all-Serbian team decidedly low-profile and the former World No.1 markedly confident. She's blasting her forehand with as much gusto as she ever has, and has big-stage wins over big names this year (Serena, Maria), not to mention her first WTA titles in nearly three years.
"It's a long path, but I wish to relive it again," Ivanovic said of hoisting the Coupe de Suzanne Lenglen. "I feel like I'm a different player now with everything that I've been through. Just as person I feel like I matured a lot, I grew up."
Should she and Jankovic continue to win in Paris, they're slated for a semifinal showdown, much like six years ago. And, perhaps more so this time around, a pair of Serbian superstars that could contend for many majors moving forward.