Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

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

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

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