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TENNIS.com - Travelling Circus - IW: Help Wanted, Will Travel
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« San Jose: Easy Wins, Tough Answers IW: Sharapova and Fed Cup »
IW: Help Wanted, Will Travel
Posted 03/13/2008 @ 5 :44 AM

2008_03_12_federer_blog Even with a few interesting up-and-comers like Kei Nishikori and Caroline Wozniacki on court, few people spend much time at the stadium court at Indian Wells on opening day.

The early going is for wandering around the burnished grounds, drinking iced lemonade and watching the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria  Sharapova and Andy Roddick practice. More esoteric sightseers can peer at Tomas Berdych's shorn locks, spot Dean Goldfine at Tommy Haas' practice  session, or hold the door for Nicholas Massu and get an incongruous "Bless you" as thanks.

It's also the day the top women's seeds do their pre-tournament interviews. While it might be apropos for any one of them to open with the following  statement, in retrospect it could really only have come from Jelena Jankovic.

"Yes, I'm healthy."

Of course -- Jankovic being Jankovic -- it turns out that's a bit of a stretch, rather like her constant promises to cut down on the tournaments she plays this year. So far, the 'reduced' schedule has meant playing Sydney, the Australian Open, Fed Cup, Doha, Dubai, and Bangalore with Indian Wells and Miami to follow -- and a grand total of two weeks' rest in between.

Naturally, the rationale for (theoretically) cutting back was to focus on quality over quantity -- playing fewer events but being better prepared for the ones she did play. Jankovic's philosophy: "You do everything you can to feel fresh when you're starting the tournament."

And really, how better to put this into practice than to come from Bangalore to Indian Wells by going through Dubai, Frankfurt, Washington and LA?

A mere 21 hours of flying time, plus the odd layover or four. It's no surprise that by the time she finally got off the plane in Los Angeles, Jankovic felt "like I went from Australia and back."

"You should have seen me," she said with a sort of perverse glee. "I'm walking with the big tennis bag -- I had four bags, I don't even know how they let me on the plane... I'm walking, I'm so tired, and I look at myself in the mirror, I'm so scared. My eyes are red, completely bloody.

"They put some music in LA airport, I felt like a wounded soldier, walking, going home. It was really funny."

Ha ha ha.

Of course -- Jankovic being Jankovic -- that isn't the end of the story.

"My bags got stuck in Dubai," she said. "My mom was in Miami. I have a house there so I have a lot of clothes there, so I said to her to bring me one bag and other necessities in case my bags don't come.

"Guess what? She came -- her bags didn't arrive either! If I was to win the lottery, I'd have a better chance than this happening."

2008_03_12_jankovic_blog By this time, you really are chuckling. The endless cycle of tournament sites and airports can make the tour monotonous for many players, but life is never dull for Jankovic. "I don't really get bored. I'm around the people I really like, who I have a good time with. It's important to enjoy life," she said.

"I always like to be around people who are funny, who are not afraid to make jokes and take credit on themselves and others. I'm a young girl and I like to have fun. I don't think there's any point to be serious and act like you'remore mature than you are."

Right now, Jankovic looking to add a member to her loud and lively entourage.

Wanted: Coach for speedy Serbian with superb backhand down the line. Must be able to demonstrate superior tennis knowledge and offer sound advice, possibly serving tips, to take game to the next level. Talent for stand-up desirable but not required.

"He's there to do a job, he's not there to entertain me. But if I could find somebody who will have a good sense of humour, it wouldn't hurt," she said.

Though Jankovic has produced her recent rise up the rankings without a full-time travelling coach, she now seems convinced that she needs one. Her progress stalled halfway through last year because of illness and injuries that almost certainly had some link to overplaying.

Surgery to to supposedly correct breathing difficulties at the end of last year (maybe, but it sure looks like a different nose from here) also kept her from starting the year in the kind of shape that she would like.

That was belied by her performance in Australia, where she won her first-round match 12-10 in the third set and went on to reach the semifinals. But she blamed lack of fitness for her three-set loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova in Dubai, and has trainer Pat Etcheberry coming out to both Indian Wells and Miami to boost her conditioning.

So while she has looked like a player on the slide for the last few months, Jankovic appears serious about continuing to improve and not letting a stream of younger players -- like compatriot and rival Ana Ivanovic -- pass her by. Her flair for the dramatic aside, the lack of a regular coaching presence may have exacerbated her struggles. Not only did playing 28 tournaments last year hurt her directly, it apparently also kept her from hunting for a coach.

"I was always looking for someone but it's very difficult in the middle of the season to find somebody," she said. "Now it's just the beginning of the year and I'm looking since the beginning of the year and during the off-season as well. But hopefully I will solve this problem soon and then I will just focus on my tennis and forget all the stress."

Her last trial stint, with Scott Humphries, ended after Dubai, where Jankovic publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the way it was going. On the court and off, there's never any need to guess her emotions.

She avoided identifying this week's applicant [on it, check back later]. "Somebody's helping me here, and it's very important because I don't think I can be by myself," she said. "Especially now that I'm healthy, I feel good and I'm ready to work hard and really get back in shape again."

Being Jankovic's coach doesn't seem like it would be the easiest job in the world -- for starters, you never get a week off -- but she's happy to assure that there have been plenty of applicants. And how does she put the hopefuls through their coaching paces? "Go to court and see what is their theories, what kind of knowledge they have, what education, what they can teach me. What I already know, I don't need  somebody to [tell me]. I want somebody to improve my shots and teach me something else and really bring my game to the next level."

But she shook her head when it came to sharing some of the theories she's heard thus far. "That's not mine to talk. I'm sharing stories, but there's a limit."

Her bags, by the way, turned up yesterday.

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Comments

Thanks Kamakshi about all the news from california. Great read as always!!

Jelena's IW draw is a piece of cake: there's no one in theory that should pose a problem until Ivanovic in the semis. I say in theory because as you mentioned, there's always some degree of "drama" or at least unnecessary things that happen during her matches. Her problem is solely about a lack of concentration and game plan: she tries to figure out what to do "on the spot"! And of course there's no continuity in her play, an rolling first set win could also mean her losing a TB in a third set. Au secours!!!

Compared with Maria Sharapova who is all business and determination to close, it's a miracle Jelena can reach quarter finals. Her match against Paczek at the AO was a disgrace and so was her match against Kuzzie. She is very talented but right now I feel she is losing ground and going in every directions at once (sometimes literally). I'm glad with this news about her trying to get a new coach because she needs discipline and focus (and some cues about her serve too).

No wonder she's been heralded as what is not good with women's tennis:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/tennis/article3462610.ece

It's not very fair but I can understand the exasperation.

You seamed to forget a potential clash with Davenport in the quaters, a player wouls has reached the IW final 7 times...

Always fun to read your pieces, Kamakshi. Keep us well posted as we don't expected to see much on TV this time.

ok, point taken. but perhaps Marion bartoli in a "battle of the graceful ballerinas" might take Davenport away?

Still,since her return Davenport has only fought against low ranked players so how to really know what her form is really like?True, she beat Jankovic in Bali (who also had a mini breakdown during the match) as well as Dementieva and Zvonareva but I'm going to be an optimist and say that Janko will live up to her ranking and beat Davenport. (and Davenport's loss to Maria in Australia doesn't really count since Justine Henin was bagelled by the unstoppable Russian.)

I would be her coach! If i was good enough...but that would be awesome if i was!
<3

I too would be her coach. Not her tennis coach...

Jelena is such a talent. Too bad she started to look for the coach now. Had she had one two years ago, she would have at least one major trophy on her account.

But it's not too late. Provided Jelena got a right person, we can watch her winning at least one GS this year.

Good luck, Jelo!

Jelena,

a coach is definitely essential for her. She needs somebody to help her improve her service, and keep her talents together during the matches. Jelena has had too much ups and downs during most of her matches. A good coach would stabilize her play during the matches. The discipline is what she needs. The capacity is there, and only good instructor is missing.

I am sure she has capacity of winning more than one GS titles!

One more thing JJ needs for sure: a better and updated website. A player of her rank needs a website of that rank.

JJ you need a first class coach (to achieve first class goal!). Sense of humor isn't what you are missing at all!

your game (in my humble opinion) is missing only one thing..a strong and maybe a little riskier service...taking chances isn't easy I know...but think about the rewards.

hey Brada maybe you are going to the wrong site. her official site is: jj-jelenajankovic.com , so yeah if you want her official site go there

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