As we know, Jelena Jankovic pulled off a great win at Indian Wells two weeks ago. She looked impressiveve in the quarterfinals, semi finals, and final against Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who is the No. 2 player in the world at the moment.
It got me thinking whether Jelena has gotten over her troubles of last season and is now in contention to win a Grand Slam title this year. Let’s assess where Jelena is at right now.
Jelena Jankovic was a world junior No. 1, but took some time to find her feet in the senior tour. Her breakthrough year was 2006 when she got to the semifinal of the US Open, and posted other good results in the hard court season that year. Big things were predicted for her, as Jelena has a game that’s quite pleasing on the eye.
Jelena’s strengths are her movement and backhand (particularly her backhand down the line), her on-court smarts, and her ability to play a strategic game of tennis. Jelena also has a very good transition game coming forward to net.
Jelena’s weaknesses? Her serve—particularly her second serve, which is extremely attackable—has prevented her so far from winning a Major title, because in the really important matches against the best players you need to have a reliable second serve.
Due to Jelena’s counter-punching style, at times she can be too passive, or at least she has been in the past, and it has cost her.
Her coach last year, Ricardo Sanchez, tried to get Jelena to play more aggressively and to get stronger by working out more in the gym. That strategy didn’t seem to work, and her game suffered. She posted poor results at both Wimbledon and the US Open, and she didn’t look happy.
This year, Jelena has been working with a new coach—a chap named Chip Brooks, who has been at the Nick Bollittieri academy for a number of years.
Chip has been impressing on Jelena to play much further up the court and not concede too much territory behind the baseline. Chip has also been helping Jelena to go for more on her first and second serves; after all, Jelena is quite tall so should be able to deliver a strong serve more often than she has been doing.
Chip has also been advising Jelena how to approach different opponent’s games. Chip has an impressiveve resume...I understand he has worked with Courier, Agassi, and Sampras when they were youths at the Bollittieri academy.
The results were there for everyone to see. I thought that was the smartest and best I’ve seen Jelena play for a number of years. What really impressed me was how often Jelena held her serve in those matches—she was hardly broken at all. Jelena usually has a harder time holding serve consistently.
In conclusion, I was beginning to think that Jelena’s career might be starting to stagnate after her poor 2009 (by her standards, considering she was No. 1 in the world for 18 weeks in 2008 and reached the final of the US Open, losing to Serena Williams).
However, the coaching change and the win in Indian Wells might just make Jelena Jankovic a contender for the remaining three slams this year.
Jelena has always had the ability and game to win a Major title. Hopefully she has found the self belief, physical discipline, and mental discipline to take on the challenge of really having a go at the slams, and at least be able to join those talented players who were able to win a Major title at least once in their careers...let's hope so.