Jelena Jankovic. How do I even begin to describe Jelena Jankovic?
I first became acquainted with Jelena Jankovic seven years ago, when she still wore Reebok. From January to May 2006, Jankovic lost ten straight matches and considered quitting the sport to study at university. She turned her year, and arguably her career, around with a run to the semifinals of the US Open that year. Little did we know, this was just the beginning of Jankovic’s flair for the dramatics.
She found her way to the top of the rankings in 2008 with the polarizing figure of Ricardo Sanchez by her side. In fact, many would consider Jankovic a polarizing figure herself. Some found her diva antics and blunt humor amusing, while others found her brash and self-centered. She was the subject of a Serbian documentary about her life that same year, aptly titled Jelenin svet (Jelena’s World). While she was at the top of the game, that was almost how it felt; it was Jelena’s world, and we were just living in it.
However, in 2009, it all began to go wrong. Jankovic looked to “bulk up” in the offseason in an attempt to change her game to challenge for major titles. Jankovic was upset by Marion Bartoli in the fourth round in Melbourne that year; Bartoli hit 34 winners, compared to Jankovic’s 17 and won 81% of her first serve points, compared to Jankovic’s 56%. As a result, Jelena lost the No. 1 ranking to Serena Williams. She ended 2009 and 2010 at No. 8, but the ranking slide was quick from there. 2011 marked her first non-top 10 season since 2006 while 2012 was the first time she ended the year outside the world’s top 20 since 2005.
Jankovic comes into this year’s Australian Open seeded No. 22. She faced off against Johanna Larsson in the opening round, and despite a convincing 6-2, 6-2 scoreline, the match was anything but. Jankovic hit 16 winners to 23 errors in her opener, while the Swede hit a paltry six winners to go with a staggering 36 errors.
Qualifier Maria Joao Koehler, who impressed in a 7-5, 6-1 first round loss to Kim Clijsters a year ago in her Grand Slam main draw debut, came out firing en route to building a *4-1 lead in the first set. Jankovic would take a medical timeout on that change of ends, the first of many subplots throughout the match. She left the court for treatment, and returned with her entire abdomen taped.
Nothing would stop the momentum from the lefty from Portugal, who hit more winners than Jankovic in the opening set and benefitted from the Serb’s 17 unforced errors; Koehler would take the opener 6-2 in 41 minutes. Jankovic was close to tears early on in the second set, whether it was the injury, her poor play or both. Midway through, she began to crack some of her trademark backhands-down-the line with some authority but continued to trail for the majority of the set. Koehler was two points away from victory at *5-4 in the tiebreak, but Jankovic would win three points in a row to level the match at a set apiece.
The pair would trade breaks to open the third set, but this time it was Jankovic who would benefit from Koehler’s erratic play; the 20-year-old hit just two winners and a whopping 20 unforced errors in the third set to give Jankovic a 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 victory.
Jankovic was always good at finding a way to win matches when not playing her best. Despite that, this isn’t the Jelena Jankovic who came to be known as one of the most unique personalities on the WTA Tour over the past half-decade; she’s become a shell of the player she once was. One of the WTA’s masters of engaging the crowd when she was at her peak, Jankovic appeared to do anything but embrace the crowd’s support in this match. She’s been going through the motions for a long time now, and her days of a contender for major tournaments seem to be behind her. Jankovic hasn’t been enjoying herself on the court for a while, and it’s sad to see.
She’ll take on Ana Ivanovic in the third round, and if this were 2008, I’d say that match was highly anticipated. But this is 2013, and both are a world away from contending for major titles as they once were.
By Romana Cvitkovic
Novak Djokovic’s latest venture includes an “amicable” split with clothing sponsor Sergio Tacchini and a new deal with Japanese brand UNIQLO which will be made official in Paris on Wednesday. Chatter surrounding the decline of the Serbia Open tennis tournament is also surfacing as tournament director Goran Djokovic is set to resign, also putting up the sale of the tournament license starting in 2013. Get the full scoop below.
Novak Djokovic splits with Sergio Tacchini, signs with UNIQLO
Novak Djokovic signed a 10-year deal with clothing brand Sergio Tacchini in November 2009, but as announced today by Danielle Rossingh of Bloomberg News, the two have decided to part ways early as Djokovic has “outgrown” the brand. At the time of signing, Djokovic had reached world number four and had only one slam under his belt. Since then, he has climbed to number one and won four more slams, and gone on one of the most remarkable winning runs in sport landing him in TIME’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2012.
A spokesperson for Tacchini released the following statement: “It has been mutually and amicably decided that, as of the 2012 Roland Garros Grand Slam, Novak Djokovic will no longer be the brand ambassador.” It is reported that an announcement will be made on Wednesday in Paris to disclose a new sponsorship deal between Djokovic and Japanese clothing company UNIQLO, for which their current ambassador is tennis player Kei Nishikori.
In 2010, Djokovic won only two tournaments which was in stark contrast to his ten titles the following year. Signing a European player as an ambassador for a company recovering from bankruptcy was a gamble, but it initially paid off with a boost in sales. However, Djokovic’s success in 2011 seemed to have taken Tacchini by surprise — both because of bonus tournament payouts and because of manufacturing struggles to keep up with demand.
Under the terms of the original deal, Djokovic was to receive “incentive bonuses linked to tournament wins and end-of-year rankings, … a share of all Tacchini revenue from sales in China, and [a share of] worldwide revenue from Djokovic-branded Tacchini products.”
Things seemed to be looking up back in July of 2011 when after his Wimbledon victory, Djokovic traveled with the owner of Sergio Tacchini, Billy Ngok, and U.S. billionaire businessman Ron Burkle, to Serbia to discuss plans for investment, including a Tacchini plant, in the Niš area. Unfortunately, that trip never developed into anything.
Djokovic’s latest tennis kit in Rome last week was not a big hit with fans and now the answer is clear as to why. The week before in Madrid, he still wore the spring kit and it seems more than likely that his kit in Rome was a strange interpretation of a Serbian flag more than anything else.
Serbia Open in jeopardy as tournament director resigns and tournament license up for sale in 2013
On the heels of Djokovic’s split with Sergio Tacchini, Serbian fans get bad news that the Serbia Open may be no more starting as early as next year. The Djokovic-family driven Serbia Open, an ATP Tour 250-level tournament in the capital of Belgrade, may soon cease to exist. According to Serbian newspaper Novosti, Novak’s uncle and director of the Serbia Open has not only submitted his resignation but also the sale of the tournament license starting in 2013.
The license cites that the dates of the tournament will stay as the first week of May, and as the tournament is currently sandwiched between Monte Carlo and Madrid, that significantly decreases the list of possible buyouts of the rights to the tournament. Several cities are in proposed talks to buy the rights with Spanish cities at the top of the list including Seville, Marbella and even Palma de Mallorca.
After it’s inaugural tournament in 2009 which was won by Djokovic, the tournament stayed mostly relevant as the top Serbs and Croats played, bringing the locals out. 2011 held it’s strongest field ever as the top eight seeds were ranked 37th in the world or better, including three Serbs. However, after the pullout of Djokovic this year due to the passing of his grandfather and the failing of any top Serbs to show up and even play, the tournament experienced a major setback. While the initial weekend of the tournament proved successful as several Serbs played qualifying and two were granted wildcards in the main draw, much of the rest of the tournament lacked luster, fan interest low and international media scarce.
For what is quickly turning into a tennis-loving nation, Serbia may very well be without any tour-level tournament again next year. The inevitable is here and the Serbia Open may soon cease to exist.