JJ, The Chicken and The Egg

From “Peter Bodo‘s Tennis World” – Post #2 of 2 for today


by Bobby Chintapalli

MASON, Ohio – Jelena Jankovic isn’t the reason I’m here, and yet I’ve seen more of her this week than anyone else. That’s the thing about her – whether she’s winning or losing, winning you over or whining again, you can’t look away. So I didn’t. I watched and watched some more, on court and off. And while I was at it, I took a few notes on the former No. 1, who plays Grand Slam winner Francesca Schiavone at the Western & Southern Open tonight.


Jelena Jankovic likes to ask questions, even when she’s really there to answer them. In her post-match press conference after her match against Zheng Jie yesterday, the tennis player asked a handful of us the rules of tennis.

Explaining how she went on to win the match after losing the first set, Jankovic said she was up 4-1 and lost her focus. She also felt she got a few bad calls in the first set. “I hit an ace and then some lines. And I don’t know what the rule is when the girl calls the ball out during the point and then she continues to play.” (The “girl” being her opponent, who Jankovic also had glowing words for, calling her among other things, “one of the greatest fighters out there.”)

Then Jankovic had some questions for us: “I don’t know if that’s allowed or not? Is that allowed? What are the rules?”

The questions weren’t rhetorical. She said that a few times Zheng called a ball out but, when the umpire didn’t say anything, continued playing. Jankovic though perhaps stopped or slowed down and, as a result, went on to lose the point. Jankovic asked the umpire about this, she said, and the umpire said it’s up to her (the umpire), not her opponent.

Jankovic likes to talk, sure, but it’s more than that – she likes to converse. In press it’s not unusual for her to ask, perhaps to assess the level of detail with which to reply, whether you saw the match. (She asked me that yesterday when I asked if she thought Zheng may have gotten bad calls too. For the record I watched the last two sets and, as I told her, I did think Zheng got a bad call later on.)

In many ways Jankovic is an interviewer’s delight. She can be open and insightful and, yes, verbose, all without prodding. A Q&A I did with her in Charleston was likely the easiest I’ve ever done; it had less to do with my preparation than my subject. Even when she says she won’t give you an answer, she rarely sounds cold or dismissive the way, say, Maria Sharapova sometimes can when she doesn’t like a question or simply isn’t in the mood. After her semifinal loss to Caroline Wozniacki in Charleston, I asked Jankovic about her strategy for the match. “Why would I say it now?” she asked. “It doesn’t make sense. You guys write everything in the paper. So it’s like I tell you, like the whole world knows.” Then she laughed. It’s not that Sharapova doesn’t laugh. It’s that Sharapova laughs when she wants to, whereas Jankovic seems to laugh with you.

And Jankovic is more illuminating than, say, Caroline Wozniacki. In Wozniacki’s defense she isn’t, with press at least, the person she was before this year. In the past her answers were more forthcoming and fun, but in the past questions were about what she has (wins, game, ranking) more than the one thing she doesn’t (a Grand Slam title – have you heard?!).

I asked former No. 1 Jankovic if she empathizes with current No. 1 Wozniacki, who’s been under a lot of pressure this year and who was upset by American Christina McHale yesterday. “It’s tough to say,” she said, before saying 300 words on the matter. She said Wozniacki’s young and has achieved so much already, has time to achieve even more. She said perhaps she hasn’t gotten enough matches and is, as a result, lacking rhythm and confidence. She said in the end she’s playing for herself, no one else. She eventually wrapped up with this: “It’s not like she’s the only one or I’m the only one. That’s part of the sport. It’s just a matter of how you get back…”

Read the whole posting HERE


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