at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Dubai – Former world number one Jelena Jankovic, who achieved her best win for 12 months before exiting in the Dubai Open semifinals, has a new team to help her beat a wave of different rivals and a plan to overcome herself too.
The intelligent, loquacious and charismatic Serb, who overcame US Open champion Samantha Stosur on Thursday before Friday's three-set loss to Polish fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, has always enjoyed working things out for herself.
However, she is setting her independent instincts aside in a bid to climb back up from her current world ranking of 14, despite her exit to Radwanska.
“At one point I really wanted to carry on without a coach,” Jankovic said, when quizzed about her recent appointment of Henner Nehles, a former player at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
“I'm one of those instinct players. I really have to kind of do everything on my own on the court and really not rely so much on the coach,” she explained.
“I really want to be on the court and figure out a way to play on my own and really fight out there. So I'm one of those kind of players. I kind of tried to go to the old self that I've been that gave me my success.”
At the same time Jankovic admits that a coach can see things from the side of the court which the player cannot. And it is necessary to work with a coach in training.
“I was recommended him (Nehler), so I just tried to see,” she said. “And on top it's a little bit different because he's a young guy, and usually you have the older coaches, you know, with a lot of experience on the tour.
“He's really young, but he's motivated and he has other qualities other than experience. We'll see how it goes. It's tough to predict the future.”
Jankovic also has Korey Goodwin as her new fitness trainer – another vital appointment, as one of the causes of her slide down the rankings has been repeated health and injury problems.
“I have a new team, and we were working in the off season a lot trying to make some changes, you have to still try to improve some things.”
These have involved improving the weight and variety of her serve, making the first solid strike in a rally more often, and moving opponents around more rather than relying so much on her athletic ability and court coverage.
Jankovic also wants to develop the stamina and equanimity to last a seven-day two-week Grand Slam.
“I would have won a lot of Grand Slams if they had been only five days,” she says.
The changes are intended to help her respond to the emergence of fine new players such as Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska, all younger than the 26-year-old Jankovic.
“But then you have to compete at the same time,” she points out. “So you cannot really make drastic changes. You just have to find the middle and try to keep improving and still compete and still do it at a high level.”
The new team helped Jankovic win three matches at last month's Australian Open, before she lost to the then world number one, Caroline Wozniacki.
The aim is to build on this, to regain a place in the top ten, and then to try to challenge for the major titles which have eluded her.
Jankovic looked a much more attack-minded player than before as she beat Stosur to reach her first semi-final of the year before losing 6-2, 2-6, 6-0 Friday to Radwanska.
One of the sport's most colourful characters appears to be moving in the right direction again. – Sapa-AFP