In Serena-dom­i­nated era, age is just a num­ber for Jankovic

Re­cov­er­ing from in­jury, the In­dia-bound Serb feels she can re­turn to the top

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - SPORT - Sharmistha Chaud­huri ■ sports­desk@hin­dus­tan­times.com

A cou­ple of years back, there was a sud­den surge of young women sur­pris­ing fans and sea­soned ri­vals to clinch Grand Slams. You had the Maria Shara­po­vas, Ana Ivanovics and Svet­lana Kuznetso­vas, in their early 20s or even younger, reign­ing supreme. But look closely, and you will see the trend has un­der­gone a change.

“You can’t pre­dict but you had young­sters do­ing so well. To­day, ten­nis has no age limit. Age doesn’t mat­ter be­cause the past few years you’ve had 30-plus women win­ning Grand Slams. It shows how they are us­ing their ex­pe­ri­ence and ma­tu­rity to their ad­van­tage,” felt for­mer world No 1 Je­lena Jankovic. After a short pause that led to a guf­faw, the Serb added: “I think I have to call my­self a veteran. I turn 30 next year.” EX­CITED TO RE­TURN

Hav­ing had to cut the 2014 sea­son short due to a back in­jury, Je­lena is re­cov­er­ing for the next sea­son. Speak­ing to HT in a tele­phonic in­ter­view, the world No 14, who will be play­ing for Delhi Dreams in the Cham­pi­ons Ten­nis League (CTL) be­gin­ning Novem­ber 17, said: “I loved my pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence in In­dia (she played in the Ban­ga­lore Open in 2008, los­ing in the quarters). The food, cul­ture, peo­ple... I’m ex­cited to be go­ing back.”

With two leagues be­gin­ning this year, the CTL and the In­ter­na­tional Premier Ten­nis League, what are the 2008 US Open fi­nal­ist’s thoughts? “I think it’s great. It’s dur­ing the off sea­son where play­ers can com­pete be­fore the train­ing for next sea­son be­gins. One gets some match prac­tice and the leagues will pro­mote ten­nis in that part of the world (Asia). We are very ex­cited for it,” added the 2007 Wim­ble­don mixed dou­bles champ.

Apart from Jankovic, Delhi Dreams also have Juan Car­los Fer­rero, Kevin An­der­son and Sanam Singh with ju­niors Kar­man Kaur Thandi and Garvit Ba­tra. “It will be some­thing new. The last time I played in a league it was the Fed Cup where my team­mates were girls. But in CTL I have three guys in the team. It will be fun and dif­fer­ent,” she laughed. LONG­ING FOR A SLAM “This year was un­for­tu­nate but my treat­ment is on and I’m start­ing to train soon. I’m hop­ing to be in­juryfree next year and hope­fully can go back to the top,” Jankovic added. But she longs to win a sin­gles Grand Slam, which still eludes her.

In the elite club for a long time, how dif­fi­cult is it to main­tain the top-10 rank­ing? “Oh, it’s dif­fi­cult. You need to have con­sis­tent re­sults, need to be able to cope with phys­i­cal and men­tal pres­sures, eat and re­cover well. As a woman, it’s not easy to be deal­ing with all those fac­tors.”

So off-court train­ing is a must. “I don’t like run­ning but I have to. I do yoga, pi­lates for the core, bik­ing and ex­er­cises for speed and foot­work skills to pre­vent in­juries.”

With Li Na re­tir­ing at 32 but Serena Wil­liams nowhere close to slow­ing down at 33, where does the Serb see her­self in the next cou­ple of years? “I will play as long as I en­joy it. That’s most im­por­tant.”

GETTY PHOTO

Je­lena Jankovic will be play­ing for Delhi Dreams in the Cham­pi­ons Ten­nis League.

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