U.S. Open Tennis: Can Anything Stop Jelena Jankovic's Skid?

Zultan The PrognosticatorCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2010

Besides finding herself out the door early and often at many tournaments during the North American hard court season, Jelena Jankovic, the No. 4 seed at the U.S. Open, suffers from a tough draw heading into New York.  

The summer has not been kind to the Serb with the patented slide along the baseline as she tries to change directions quickly.  

Jankovic of late finds herself increasingly out of position, reaching on the hard courts as she fights to retain her balance moving forward.

25-year-old Jankovic, defensive specialist, has teetered of late dealing with an ankle injury suffered in July that caused her to withdraw from a tournament in Slovenia. 

Moreover, her confidence was not bolstered by the fact that she lost her opening round match in San Diego where she entered as the No. 1 seed. 

In Montreal, the Serb lost to qualifier Iveta Benesova after a 1st round bye.

Because of early dismissals during the summer tournaments, Jankovic heads into the Open without the requisite amount of match play under her belt. She could overcome that deficiency by playing her way into form, assuming there are no early round land mines waiting in her path.

2010 started out well for the Serb who seemed to be regaining her lost form. Jankovic won the hard court tournament at Indian Wells in California, defeating world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki in the finals. In Rome on clay, the Serb defeated both Williams sisters before losing in the finals to Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez.  

Jankovic lost in the semifinals of the French Open to Samantha Stosur and then retired at Wimbledon during a fourth round match to Vera Zvonareva with a back injury.

Since her retirement at Wimbledon, the Serb has not defeated a top 25 ranked player.

Jankovic seeks to get back to the level she enjoyed in 2008 as the No. 1 player in the world.

She desperately seeks to win her first major and feels that this year at U.S. Open may be her best opportunity with Serena Williams out of action and with Kim Clijsters as well as Maria Sharapova entering the tournament fighting recent injuries.  


Analyzing Jelena Jankovic’s draw:

Third Round: Kaia Kanepi of Estonia should be Jankovic’s third round opponent if Jankovic gets by Simona Halep of Romania in her opening match and then probably Alica Molik of Australian in the second round.  She should easily.

Kanepi, however, has been playing very well of late, advancing to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and winning the tournament in Palermo. Kanepi met Jankovic at the French Open and lost to her in the round of 64. The Estonian had previously defeated Jankovic in 2009 at Dubai in the round of 16.  It could be a potentially difficult match for the Serb.

Fourth Round: If she survives Kanepi, Jankovic will probably meet Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in the fourth round. Most recently, the two played each other in Rome where Jankovic won 6-2, 6-0.  

Last year, Wickmayer made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Open. Therefore, most suspect that she feels right at home on this particular big stage.  

But this year, Wickmayer is not quite as much of a surprise as she was a year ago.  Nor is she playing quite as well as she did in last year’s Open. 

Recently the young Belgian traveled to Cincinnati where she made it into the quarterfinals. She lost to Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 3-6, 6-1. The next week, Wickmayer lost in the second round at Rogers Cup in Canada to Agnes Szavay 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. 

This past week, Wickmayer lost in her first round at New Haven. Jankovic should be able to defeat Wickmayer, but the young Belgian can be dangerous if she gets into a zone and plays lights out. 

Quarterfinal Round: If Jankovic makes it to the quarterfinals, she would probably find herself across the net from No. 9 seed Agnieszka Radwanska or No. 7 seed Vera Zvonareva.  Either player is a dangerous foe.

Jankovic has not faced Radwanska since the 2008 French Open, a match which Jankovic won, 6-3, 7-6.  But Radwanska has been playing very well of late, reaching the 4th round at Wimbledon and the semifinals at Stanford, losing to Maria Sharapova.  

She was the runner-up in San Diego, losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the finals 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. Radwanska lost in the third round to Sharapova in Cincinnati 6-2, 6-3. In her last tournament in Montreal, Radwanska lost to Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. 

If the Serb meets the No. 7 seed Vera Zvonareva, she will have to be playing top-notch tennis because Zvonareva is finally back to her best form in recent memory.

The Russian has won the last three matches they have played, the last two in 2010 as Zvonareva defeated Jankovic at Wimbledon and at Dubai.  Their overall head to head remains tied at 6-6.  

In recent play, the Russian lost to Flavia Penneta in Cincinnati in the third round 6-4, 6-3. Then Zvonareva went on to make the finals at the Rogers Cup, losing to Wozniacki 6-3, 6-2. 

Semifinal Round: Jankovic’s opponent in the semifinals, should she make it that far, could be Caroline Wozniacki, the No. 1 seed.  Jankovic has never lost to the young Dane with their head to head standing at 4-0. But Wozniacki has been playing lights out on the American hard courts heading into the U.S. Open.

Her opponent, however, could just as well be Maria Sharapova or Svetlana Kuznetsova, both of whom have been playing extremely well of late.  Sharapova holds a 5-1 edge over Jankovic in their head to head meetings. Their most recent meeting was in Tokyo in 2009 with Jankovic retiring once again. 

Sharapova won the U.S. Open in 2006 and is finally finding her way back to her previous playing levels after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Jankovic and Kuznetsova are tied at 5-5 head to head with Jankovic winning three of their last four matches.  But the Russian is a streaky player and can come to life at any time. The Russian has won the U.S. Open in 2004 and knows what it takes to win it all.  

Jelena Jankovic has been hard pressed to win as consistently and as often as she did in 2008 when she should have won her first slam. Now, she may never get the opportunity again. This year seems to be her best shot, but she has some huge obstacles and some great players who wish to stop her dead in her tracks.