x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Jankovic remains focused despite defeat in Melbourne

Jelena Jankovic tried to remain positive despite her shock second round defeat at the Australian Open in Melbourne

Jelena Jankovic of Serbia reacts during her match against Peng Shuai of China.
Jelena Jankovic of Serbia reacts during her match against Peng Shuai of China.

Jelena Jankovic dismissed suggestions her best tennis was behind her despite another early grand slam exit as she crashed out of the Australian Open in the second round yesterday.

The former world No 1, one of three players to have reached the top ranking without winning a major title, looked well below par as she was beaten in straight sets 7-6, 6-3 by China's 54th-ranked Peng Shuai.

Since reaching top spot in August 2008, which was followed within weeks by her sole grand slam final appearance at the US Open, the Serbian has only made it past the fourth round once at the big four tournaments.

The 24-year-old reached the semi-finals of last year's French Open, where she suffered a surprise loss to Samantha Stosur, the Australian.

However, Jankovic said she was enjoying being fully fit again after ankle and back problems last year, as well as eye surgery, and was confident of getting back to her best.

"No, I always believe in myself," Jankovic said when asked if she was worried she would never again regain her form of 2007 and 2008. "The most important thing is that I'm healthy because I can just work on my game and really work on my fitness.

"Then the more I play, the better I get. I think I will be able to come back and even be a stronger and a better player.

"It's just a matter of really believing in myself and going out on the court and, you know, just keep working hard."

Jankovic started well enough against Peng, skipping out to a 4-1 lead before unforced errors started to take their toll.

While disappointed with the loss, Jankovic said she had plenty of time left to prove herself during the new campaign.

"It's just the beginning of the season, it's not the end of the world," she said. "You still have a long way to go and many tournaments to play.

"I'm not giving up, I feel good physically, I know I can be good and I can beat those players and I can come back to the top."

A delighted Peng said: "I was really happy with today's win, I thought I played well."

The Chinese player's reward for her victory is a match against Japan's Ayumi Morita tomorrow for a place in the last 16.

Meanwhile, Vera Zvonareva, the Russian second seed, survived an early onslaught from Bojana Jovanovski, the Serbian, to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

The unseeded Jovanovski came out with all guns blazing in the first set, blasting 11 clean winners and serving at 82 per cent as she rattled through the first set.

But Zvonareva hit back to take the next two sets and she said: "I may not have played perfect tennis but I was able to win."

Kim Clijsters, the third seed, strolled to a 6-1, 6-3 success over Carla Suarez Navarro and she said her determination to try and dominate points earlier in rallies was working well for her.

"I've been doing really well is playing inside of the court," she said. "Whenever I feel that I can step forward from there, I do that as well.

"I think there's a lot of opportunities in the beginning of the rallies where you can really step forward and kind of dictate and put your opponent under pressure."

Caroline Wozniacki, the No 1 seed, today plays Dominika Cibulkova, the Slovakian 29th seed, while Justine Henin, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova will also be in action.