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October 26, 2009

Jelena Jankovic


ANDREW KRASNY: The 24-year-old is one of three players to hold the No. 1 ranking this year. She has qualified for her third straight Sony Ericsson Championships. She won two titles this year, Marbella and Cincinnati. She finished runner-up at Tokyo and was a semifinalist at the Paris Indoors, from Serbia, everyone, our No. 8 seed, Jelena Jankovic.

Q. You win Cincinnati, then you beat Kim Clijsters, then you have one or two problems. How are you feeling now? Are you feeling okay?
JELENA JANKOVIC: Yes, I'm feeling good. You know, it's the end of the year. It's the last event of the year, the most prestigious event of the year, which all of us in the beginning of the year, we want to come here and compete.
Even though I had a tough year, so many things that have happened off the court that affected my tennis, I'm still in the top eight and I made the Championships. I'm still strong. No matter what is happening, I'm just always trying to do my best and be positive out there.

Q. Given what's happened, do you think it's a big achievement to make the top eight?
JELENA JANKOVIC: Yes. Like I said, I had a tough year. I haven't played my best tennis this year. I had a lot of ups and downs, some good results. I have the tennis to beat, you know, the top players. My goal is for next year to come back to the top and start winning big events again. So that is my goal.
For now, it's just to hopefully do well in this tournament. I will try my best.

Q. What are some specific lessons you've learnt from 2009 that will make you a better player in 2010?
JELENA JANKOVIC: As well, as one of the top players, our life is very difficult, very demanding to be on the Tour, to play every day, to work hard. We're always under pressure.
You know, as well, like I said, I had so many things that have happened off the court. My mother was sick. When I was competing at the US Open, my grandmother died. Then you realize there are more important things in life than tennis, and tennis is just a game. Then you realize that you don't need to take it so seriously. You don't go down on yourself when you lose, you don't get so disappointed like I used to before. I'm a little bit more gentle on myself. You know, I just try to enjoy it as much as I can.
My goal for next year is to work hard and to improve my game and to be in the top again.

Q. One of your constant self-criticisms is that you weren't really fit enough.
JELENA JANKOVIC: Yes, you know, I had a lot of things in the beginning of the year. As you see now, I'm much skinnier than I used to be in the beginning of the year. I have maybe seven to ten kilos more than I have now. Maybe you wouldn't tell, but it was the case in the beginning of the year. I felt really slow on the court. I lost really my speed.
Nowadays, if you don't move well, it's tough to compete against the best players, men or women. You have to be always on the ball. You have to be hitting. You always have to be in position. So if you're moving well, you give your chance to do that. And if you are not, then your game breaks down and everything goes in the wrong direction.
So that was the case with me. That was a learning experience. I finished the year, 2008, as the No. 1 player in the world. I finished in a good way. I won three tournaments in a row at the end and made it here to the semis. My goal was to be even better than I was, to be stronger and fitter. But it resulted in a negative way.
So I learned that I cannot be, you know, so muscle. I cannot play with so many muscles. I need to be explosive. I need to be fast on the court. That is how I play my best tennis.
So good learning experience. I know what I don't need to do. I cannot lift weights. I can lift weights, but with light weights, not like I did in the off-season of 2008.

Q. Even though you finished 2008 as No. 1, at times you found it difficult to get through the year because the demands made upon you by the schedule. Does it suit you better now, this year's schedule?
JELENA JANKOVIC: To be honest, there were times this year where I felt like I wanted to play some more. I felt like I needed some matches because, especially after Wimbledon, I didn't play for a month, and then I played one tournament in Stanford, and I felt like in order to come into form and be ready for the US Open and some of the big events, I needed to play some matches and get match-tough again.
There was a time I felt like, you know, the schedule didn't suit me, where I wanted to compete a little bit more, get the rhythm and experience and feel comfortable and, as well, get my confidence before those events.
But unfortunately this is how it is. You know, I just do my best like the rest of the players.

Q. Would one of your ambitions for 2010 be perhaps to play the Grand Slams a little better than you did?
JELENA JANKOVIC: Yeah, this year was not really, you know, my best year overall - not just Grand Slams, but for the rest of the tournaments as well. I haven't done well at all.
But still, you know, even I haven't played well, I'm still in the top eight, which is a huge achievement. Many players, you know, play badly and don't even win a tournament. I have won two tournaments. So still compared to a bad year, I'm in the top. I still have a chance to play here. And I give myself an opportunity to do well. If I'm here, anything can happen.
For 2010, my goal is to just keep improving my game, just work hard. There's so many things I would like to do better. You know, I will work very hard and really focus on my tennis to become a better player. Hopefully I can just stay healthy, stay away from injuries. That's all I ask for and pray for.

Q. The point about the schedule, in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago the men were retiring, nine retirements in the tournament. The men were saying that the women have it absolutely right with the calendar, giving yourself the off-season that you need to prepare. Do you think that's the right way to go?
JELENA JANKOVIC: Yes, we have a longer off-season which is good for our recovery and to have enough time to train again and prepare for the next season.
But the only thing for me personally is that, you know, we have less tournaments and all of that. But in case, for example, if you didn't play well in one tournament, and you lost early, you're not allowed to play the next one. You feel like you're just training. You want to compete. That is for me something that, if you're doing well, you don't need to play the next one. But in case you didn't do well, we don't have players in the top 10 that have a chance to play the next event and get some matches in.
As well, was a little bit hard at the end of the year, like now, we were competing for the Masters. My only chance was in Moscow, which some of the other players, a couple other players who had a chance to make it to the Masters, they could play Linz, Osaka. They had many other opportunities to get a few points where I had only one. So it also sometimes can be a disadvantage for a top-10 players like me who hasn't done so well during the year.

Q. How much time do you actually spend now practicing at Nick's?
JELENA JANKOVIC: I spend I don't know exactly how much. But I spent last year training in the off-season, then one week or so, 10 days before Stanford.

Q. The reason I ask, you have the same agent at Heather Watson. Do you know anything about her, hit with her or anything like that?
JELENA JANKOVIC: To be honest, I don't know. Who is she?

Q. She's 16. She's from the Channel Islands in England. She's based at Nick's.
JELENA JANKOVIC: I haven't played her.

Q. Just wondered whether you knew anything about her.
JELENA JANKOVIC: No, I haven't played against her. I rarely practice with girls, so...

Q. Just going back to Moscow, how much pressure was on you during the week there? You left it almost literally till the last minute to qualify.
JELENA JANKOVIC: Yeah, it was an unusual situation for me because the last two years I was the first one to qualify for the Championships, almost a few weeks after Wimbledon. So I secured the Championships. And this year was just the opposite: I was the last one to qualify. We were competing the last week in Moscow. I got injured in Beijing, which I needed that result over there, but I got injured. My hand was swollen. I couldn't really hold the racquet. So my only chance was in Moscow.
I took it really as a challenge. Last year, as well, I was in the same situation, but competing for No. 1 position. So I had a lot of pressure. It was a battle between a few players, who is going to finish No. 1. And I won three tournaments in a row and secured that spot.
So I took that experience from last year to this year, and I was very strong to keep my good composure and to be positive out there and to just play match by match and not really think about if I lose, of course I would be disappointed that I didn't make the Championships. But even though if I didn't make it, you know, it's not the end of the world. I tried my best. The other girls were better. That's all.
So I'm glad that I'm here. Like I said, I give myself an opportunity to have a good tournament.

Q. This tournament obviously is going to decide who ends the year at No. 1. It's the end of the decade. People are starting to debate who the top athletes are for the different sports over the last 10 years. Who would you say is the top women's tennis player of the decade?
JELENA JANKOVIC: I have no idea. There is so many great players out there. I don't know who is of the decade. I also didn't play for a decade. There is also people before me, before some of the players that are competing. You know, I don't know who to say.

Q. If you look at the players that are active today, do you think Serena should be in that discussion?
JELENA JANKOVIC: Yes, Serena is for sure one of the best players in the world. She is going into that direction of the legends who have won many Grand Slams. But she's, as well, older. She's 28, 29 years old. So she's played many more years than some of the rest of the players who are now competing these days.

Q. How would you compare her achievements if you look at Justine Henin, for instance?
JELENA JANKOVIC: It's tough to say. I really respect both of the players. They're great athletes. They have achieved so much in women's tennis. They were both great for the sport.
I think it's very difficult and really not fair for both of these players to be compared to each other. They both try their best on the court. They have really great results. They have won many Grand Slams. I admire both of them in the same way.

Q. Are you surprised both Justine and Kim are coming back?
JELENA JANKOVIC: You know, it's surprising not because they are coming to play, it's because when you say that you retire, that you don't want to play any more, then after two years you come back again and you want to compete. But they are great for the sport. Both of them, they're unbelievable athletes. I remember from playing, you know, a couple years ago against them, I was young, but I had really so exciting matches against both of them. They motivated me to work hard and to become a better player.

Q. Have you seen or spoken to Ana since she's had her problems?
JELENA JANKOVIC: No, unfortunately not. She has her own team. She tries her best. It's hard. We are athletes. You cannot always expect to be on the top of the game. Our years are long on the Tour. We are not playing like some of the other sports where we play for few months and then we have few months off. Our year is very, very long. Even though we try to always play your best tennis, always give good results and do well in the events... So some years are better than others. That's the part of the sport, as well, part of life. We have a lot of ups and downs, not just in tennis, in many other aspects in life.
Just it's important to be positive and to always learn, keep learning until you die.

Q. I know you're not particularly close, but do you think she's got the strength to overcome these problems and fight back?
JELENA JANKOVIC: You know, it's better to ask her that. For me it's difficult really to comment on other players.
But I really understand how it is to be down and to not do well. To come out of this as a champion, it's I think a good achievement, no matter what your ranking is. But to overcome those in a way obstacles and to become a better player, I think it makes you much stronger as a person and as a player as well.
So if you can do that, I think it can be a plus, it can be a positive thing. If you go through all of that, you come out, I think in the future you can be much, much better than what you were before you went into those, let's say, crises.

Q. Is mum here with you?
JELENA JANKOVIC: Yes. My mom is here and my dad is here. It's very exciting for me to have them both here.

Q. Will she tour with you next year more?
JELENA JANKOVIC: Yeah, I hope so. You know, as well, for a woman her age, I don't think it's easy to travel around the world and be in the planes, be in different hotels every week. I think it's very hard for me, who I'm in my 20s. You can imagine when it's an older person, especially that she had some health problems, surgery after Wimbledon.
You know, I would love to have her with me most of the tournaments. But we will see. You know, I think the most important thing is the health. So if it's okay for her to do that much traveling, you know, I would be very happy. But if not, it's best for her to stay at home and watch me on Eurosport or these channels.

Q. What does your mum mean to you now that you're a bit older?
JELENA JANKOVIC: Yeah, for me, family is the most important in my life. If you have your family, you have really everything. My family has been with me through the good and the bad times. They have really experienced so much. Without them, I really wouldn't be here, so...

Q. But her value on the Tour with you?
JELENA JANKOVIC: She's really, really supportive no matter what. She is the one who taught me to be strong and she is the one who I think I learned a lot from, the value of life and everything else. She is the one who plays an important role in my life.

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