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By Scott Riley, Tennis Editor - Archive - Email
Serbian women came and went

Ana Ivanovic captured the French Open and ascended to No. 1 in 2008.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It wasn't too long ago when women's tennis was flat taking off in Serbia, led, of course, by Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. But things have changed.

Sure, Ivanovic (16th) and Jankovic (14th) are both currently ranked inside the world's Top 20, but stays at those spots seem to be tenuous, at best.

Serbian women's tennis was all the rage in the latter half of the 2000s, as Ivanovic and Jankovic both charged all the way up to No. 1 in the world. Ivanovic got there in June 2008, while her fellow Belgrade native Jankovic turned the trick just two months later.

The aggressive Ivanovic, now 24, became the first (and only) Serbian woman to capture a Grand Slam title when she prevailed at the French Open in June 2008, and she reached major finals at the '07 French and the '08 Australian Open. At one point, Ivanovic appeared in three of five major finals and was looking like a world beater.

However, Ivanovic admittedly battled severe confidence issues after reaching the top and hasn't reached a major quarterfinal since winning that French title going on four years ago. And she's only advanced beyond the third round at a Slam five times over the last 15 majors.

Ouch.

Ivanovic has appeared in 15 career WTA finals, winning 11 of them, but has won titles only three times on the circuit since her career year of '08 when she won the French and the prestigious event at Indian Wells on her way to No. 1.

Then the wheels came off.

Meanwhile, Jankovic, now 27, basically had her heyday in 2007 and '08 (and you can sprinkle in a trip into a French semi in 2010).

The athletic JJ was piling up the trips into major semis, as she landed in five final fours from the 2006 U.S. Open until she climaxed with a trip into her first (and only) Grand Slam final at the 2008 U.S. Open, where she ultimately lost to the great Serena Williams in a high-quality affair in Flushing.

But since that Open final, Jankovic has managed to appear in only one major quarterfinal in her last 13 Slams (that 2010 French semi).

How'd that happen?

Well, for Jankovic, it has been injuries and a lack of confidence (not much unlike Ivanovic's peril). And, oddly enough, both women seemed to plummet simultaneously. It's hard to say that anyone has "plummeted" when you're in the Top 20 in the world, but both women seem to be light years behind the current crop of young stars in women's tennis, like Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki, just to name a few.

FYI: Jankovic does own one Grand Slam title, which came via mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 2007.

When Ivanovic (11 career titles) and Jankovic (12 titles) were striking tennis gold a few years back, so was their male countrymate Novak Djokovic, who, unlike his female fellow compatriots from Belgrade, not only sustained his momentum, but found several more gears, by comparison, to the girls.

So why did Djokovic continue to rocket while Ivanovic and Jankovic took an about face? It's hard to say (although it is safe to say that if I hailed from Serbia, my last name would be Rileyvic).

And there is no new crop of Serbian women that I'm aware of that is ready to ascend to the top. After Jankovic, who's coached by former ATP star Andrei Pavel, and Ivanovic, the best Serbia has to offer on the ladies' side is 119th-ranked 20-year-old Bojana Jovanovski, who simply has not shown any progress over the last two years.

Simply put, Jankovic and Ivanovic are the only Serbs in the women's Top 100 and that's not going to change anytime soon unless someone like Jovanovski ups the ante.

Did You Know?: Ivanovic resides in Basel, Switzerland, which is Roger Federer's hometown, while Jankovic lives in Dubai, where Federer is a part- time resident. Sounds like "Six Degrees of Roger Federer" to me.

Ivanovic and Jankovic will be part of the strong field at Indian Wells over the next two weeks.

Just don't expect either one of them to win the title.

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