Tuesday, May 11, 2010
A Serbian resurgence, perhaps?
By Ravi Ubha, ESPN.com
Editor's note: Beginning May 10, Ravi Ubha unveils the top 10 French Open questions. Check back each weekday until May 21 as we count down to No. 1.
8. How deep can the Serbian women go?
Jelena Jankovic missed a golden chance to win the French Open two years ago. You remember. Justine Henin was out of the picture and Dinara Safina was only starting her ascent.
Jankovic led her countrywoman, Ana Ivanovic, by a break deep in the third set of their semifinal, ultimately unable to seal the deal. Between then and now, Jankovic finished a year as the No. 1, without a major, slumped heavily and regained some of her old form, in that order.
Given the surface and instability at the top of the women's game, Jankovic has another huge opportunity.
The logic? For one, Jankovic, who is unburdened after splitting from Spanish coach Ricardo Sanchez, excelled in Stuttgart.
Jankovic played a solid match against Henin in the quarterfinals at Stuttgart and might have gotten a bad call early in the second-set tiebreaker. Rather than take a 3-1 lead, it was 2-2. Henin prevailed, then took the third set.
Jankovic, whose forehand is much improved, didn't fade in Rome. There was that demolition job over Venus Williams, and she hung tough to outlast Serena, the world No. 1, in nearly three hours. OK, so a battle-hardened Serena probably wins, but imagine the confidence boost the 25-year-old received.
Henin remains fragile. Those looks to coach Carlos Rodriguez in the stands persist. Serena hasn't won the French since 2002, Venus hasn't won a non-grass Slam since 2001, and the list goes on.
Safina, sadly, is hardly a serious threat. She's just happy to be back following a serious back injury. Kim Clijsters, even if the foot gets better, wouldn't have had any meaningful practice on dirt. Svetlana Kuznetsova repeating? Don't make me laugh. An ankle injury came at the wrong time for Caroline Wozniacki, and against the bigger hitters, the sprightly Dane comes up short. Is Samantha Stosur ready to win a major? Hmm. Elena Dementieva usually flatters to deceive.
And what of Ivanovic? Yes, she had a fine week in Rome. But she's in the honeymoon phase with new coach Heinz Gunthardt. Ivanovic, you might recall, was also enthused about her start with Craig Kardon last year. Reaching the second week constitutes success for the other former Serbian world No. 1.