Jankovic finally on the road back

Updated: 2013-05-31 08:14

By Reuters in Paris (China Daily)

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Jankovic finally on the road back

 Jankovic finally on the road back

China's Zheng Jie hits a backhand to American Melanie Oudin during their French Open second-round match at Roland Garros on Thursday. Zheng won 6-3, 6-1. Thomas Coex / Agence France-Presse

Jankovic finally on the road back

Jankovic finally on the road back

Former world No 1 finding her feet on clay after lean few years

It is easy to forget Jelena Jankovic ended 2008 as the world No 1 with a first Grand Slam title seemingly not far away.

Things did not quite go to plan for the Serb, now aged 28, however and arriving at this year's French Open seeded 18 she is not on many people's lists of potential champions.

There have been signs this year though that Jankovic is returning to the kind of form that once made her a fixture in the top 10 and a regular title winner.

On Thursday, she moved through to the third round with an impressive 6-3, 6-0 victory over Spain's Garbine Muguruza, storming through the last 12 games after losing the first three, getting off court just as the rain began to fall.

In the first round, against former world No 5 Daniela Hantuchova, she recovered a 5-0 second-set deficit so there is clearly nothing wrong with her fighting spirit.

"Since Miami this year I've felt the confidence coming back and I feel like I'm competing as a top player again," Jankovic said.

"I know that when I'm healthy and free of injuries I'm still capable of playing great tennis.

"I started slowly today but then won 12 games in a row. I just beat the rain too, so that's a relief."

From the US Open in 2006, when Jankovic reached her first Grand Slam semifinal, she enjoyed a run of consistency that took her all the way to No 1 in the world, reaching three semifinals and a final in the next eight Grand Slam tournaments.

Since losing to Serena Williams in the 2008 US Open final she has found it much harder to make an impression at the majors with her 2010 run to the semifinals at Roland Garros when she lost to Samantha Stosur her best effort in the past four years.

Stosur is Jankovic's likely third-round opponent at Roland Garros. The Australian No 9 seed beat Kristina Mladenovic of France 6-4, 6-3.

Jankovic ended last year out of the top 20 for the first time since 2005 and appeared to be on the decline as injuries to her back and thigh caught up with her.

But she is not finished yet.

"I'm only 28," she joked, when it was suggested she was one of the Tour's more mature players.

"We are seeing now that players are sticking around much longer and still challenging for titles into their late 20s and into their 30s, just look at Serena.

"(Francesca) Schiavone also won the French when she was 30 I think recently so just because you're late 20s doesn't mean that it's time to start dropping down the rankings.

"I feel more mature now, I know my game more. When I was younger I didn't have so many niggling injuries but the good side now is that I'm a more complete player.

"When I reached the semi-finals at Miami this year it was a real lift and I also won my 13th title in Bogota, so its been an upward curve this season and I'm enjoying it and am motivated."

(China Daily 05/31/2013 page24)