Wednesday, February 4, 2009

'Serb'-ing notice?

Oh hey, before I completely move on from the Australian (I know, give it a rest, right?) I just wanted to mention this: The Serbian superstars really had tough tournaments, huh? So tough, in my mind, that questions have to come up about their prospects for the year. I'll take it from the top, or rather the former top-spot holder.

• Jelena Jankovic

Going In: The world number 1 was top seed at a Major for the first time in her career. Her play at the start of the year wasn't exactly much to write home about, but many people thought this was going to be where she justified her ranking.

Heading Out: She fell to Marion Bartoli in the fourth round. I know Bartoli had been playing pretty solidly heading into the Aussie, but I think it's still a bad loss, especially for a number 1.

My '09 Prognosis: Jankovic is going to stay in the top five because you know no one is going to work harder than her. However, I would have liked her Slam-winning opportunities a lot more this year if she would have had a decent showing at the Australian.

• Novak Djokovic

Going In: The defending champ's preparation going in was kind of sketchy with a first-round loss to Ernests Gulbis and a semifinal loss to Jarkko Nieminen in his warm-up tournaments. The big news about Djoko, though, was the new racquet he was using. Why, oh why, would he switch after coming off a career year?

Heading Out: Djokovic really felt the heat—and the pressure from Andy Roddick—in the quarterfinals. He had to retire after going down a couple of sets. But I don't think you can bash him too much on that: It was pretty hot out there!

My '09 Prognosis: I have to tell you, I really like Djokovic's game. He does everything well and can play on all surfaces. But I wonder, is he a better hard-court player than Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray? Is he a better clay-courter than Nadal or Federer? Better on grass than Nadal, Fed or Murray? In other words, I think he's about the third or fourth best on every surface, and a lot will have to go in his favor to win a Slam this year.

• Ana Ivanovic

Going In: What can you say? Ivanovic's form has been at a pretty low level since the French last year. There really wasn't much to go on counting her as a legit threat this year.

Heading Out: Almost true to form, last year's runner-up fell in the third round to Alisa Kleybanova. Who, you might ask? Exactly.

My '09 Prognosis: I read this on Tennis Is Served... that former top-10 player Greg Rusedski said in his commentating that he doubts Ivanovic will ever return to the top spot. I'm kind of inclined to agree with him, but then you have to think that she's so young, maybe there's a shot. I definitely don't see it this year.

What these young Serbs have done in the game is pretty amazing, and I do wish more success for them. It just seems to me that they're close to a career crossroads, which is a shame because they've brought a lot to the game. Good luck to them continuing that.

(Photos: AP)


TopSpin said...

Hi Van...

I'm pretty hopeful of Jelena's prospects this year; she usually makes a slow start to the year; her season ending exertions from the previous year usually leave her a little worse for wear and she's usually recovering from some kind of infection.
But once she gets it going, she's far and away the most consistent on tour - I picked her for a title at Roland Garros this year and I'm sticking with it.

As for Novak, I'm a little disappointed his slippage has continued for this long as like you, I'm a great fan of his game. I think clay and grass will give him a real opportunity as the rest of the hard court generation continue to find these surfaces the most challenging.

And Ana? Wish her well - continue to admire her forehand - and still think she can get back into the top five (which is why I found Rusedski's comment a little surprising) - but you're right, it just isn't happening for her right now...

RiCH said...

I'm with you JJ, though I think she has a great chance at Roland Garros and a good chance at Flushing Meadow.

With regards to Nole, I'm seriously disappointed with his result in Oz (F for effort) but I'd say he's still up there on hard-courts.

As for Ana? I think it's too early to say if she'll ever return back to the WTA Penthouse but she has a lot of work to do. Let's see how she does once she gets a full-time traveling coach.

I think the Serbs are in their sophomore slump and each need to figure out how to get their games back on track. They're the hunted now, not the huntees which requires a different approach. But I think it's something a baller needs to learn. That being said, this year is a critical one for all of them. If they don't pull out of it their confidence could take a bad hit and it'll be a very slipper Serbian Slide down the rankings.

They also need to let go of the outside, monetarily driven distractions and get focused.

*out of breath*

Naf said...

Hi, Van! Greg Rusedski is totally lame. That's just my opinion.
I had noticed Djokovic changed his racquet, and that is an interesting call at this point. Guess we'll see. He'd better watch it, though -- Murray's catching up!
I'm with you on JJ. Hopefully, she won't play too many tournaments like she did last year.