DOHA // Jelena Jankovic spoke yesterday about the contrasting pressure she has felt approaching this year's Sony Ericsson WTA Tour championships in Qatar compared to the stress she was under at the season-ending event last year. The Serbian's last visit to Doha saw her crowned as world No 1 at the conclusion of the 2008 season. Her return ticket to the Qatar event was not confirmed until virtually the last minute until she secured enough points by winning two matches in Moscow last week to claim the eighth and last qualifying position.
"It was an unusual situation for me to be in, I was first to qualify last year - and the year before - and this year was just the opposite," she said. "I took it really as a challenge. Last year I was in the same situation, but competing for the No 1 position. "So I had a lot of pressure. It was a battle between a few players to decide who was going to finish No 1. And I won three tournaments in a row and secured that spot."
She feared her Doha chances had slipped away with a disastrous second-round defeat to local hope Shuai Peng in the China Open at the beginning of this month. The 24-year-old explained: "I got injured in Beijing, where I needed some good results. My hand was swollen. I couldn't really hold the racket. So my only chance was in Moscow [in the Kremlin Cup] which made it nervous for me. I am really pleased that I did what I had to do."
Anything else before the world's top women get a two-month winter break will be a bonus for Jankovic, who opens the Doha tournament with the first of her three group matches against Victoria Azarenka. "I have had a tough year," she admitted after a comparatively meagre haul of the Marbella and Cincinnati titlesthis season raised her career total to 11. "I haven't played my best tennis. I've had a lot of ups and downs. I have the game to beat the top players.
"My goal is for next year to come back to the top and start winning big events again. "For now, it's just to hopefully do well in this tournament. I will try my best."