DOHA // Jelena Jankovic took pride of place yesterday among a galaxy of stars arriving in the region for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships at the rebuilt Khalifa International Tennis Centre. Jankovic, who is guaranteed to end the year as the world No1 whatever happens to her in the annual elite gathering of the top eight women players, was the last to take the stage at the WTA's lavish draw ceremony at the impressive the Pearl complex in the Qatar capital.
"I have fulfilled my lifetime ambition," she said, after being applauded warmly by her seven illustrious peers who were introduced before her. "I am so excited to have secured the top ranking. I now want to give a good account of myself and end a great year on an even bigger high." Jankovic, one of two Serbs competing against four Russians and the American Williams sisters for the lion's share of the record prize money of US$4.55million (Dh19m), was drawn in the same round-robin group as compatriot Ana Ivanovic.
Also drawn together were Venus and Serena Williams, who shared the last two grand slam titles of the season - Wimbledon and the US Open. "We always seem to get drawn in the same half lately. We are getting used to that," said Serena, the younger of the sisters. They must do better than their Russian rivals Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva in their round-robin group if they are both to appear in Saturday's semi-finals in their quest to succeed Justine Henin as Tour champion.
Safina is promising to be a big threat to both, having shown the best form of all the leading players in the second half of the year to climb from outside the top 10 to second in the rankings. Jankovic and Ivanovic have to account for the Russian pair of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva in their group to go through to the last four and earn a chance at Sunday's first prize of $1,340,000. email@example.com