The return of Jelena Jankovic was one of the stories of 2013.
The Serb, a former world No.1 back in 2008 and early 2009, languished as low as world No.34 in August 2012 and finished that season outside the top 20, before storming back inside the top 10 during 2013 in what was a heartening resurgence.
Brimming with confidence once more and in great form, Jankovic is a player you most definitely want playing for your town at Australian Open 2014 as part of the AO Blitz.
So what exactly clicked for the Serbian tour veteran this year?
Jankovic identifies the appointment of her brother as her full time coach in February; not long after, she won the title in Bogota, Colombia, her first tournament victory in almost three years. It may have been a minor event on the calendar, but it restored that winning feeling.
Shortly thereafter, strong results at bigger tournaments followed. She reached the semis in Miami, and then the final in Charleston, where she pushed Serena Williams to three sets in an entertaining final. Next came quarterfinals in Rome and at Roland Garros – her best Grand Slam result since 2010 – and she continued that form through the US hardcourt season, reaching the semifinals in Cincinnati and the fourth round at Flushing Meadows.
By the time she hit the post-US Open Asian swing, she had returned to the top 10, and ensured her qualification at the WTA Championships by reaching the Premier-level final in Beijing. She finished the year with a sparkling 46-21 win-loss record, and $2 million richer in prizemoney.
Now back to world No.8 and with few points to defend in the early stages of 2014, Jankovic could very well rise even higher.
So how can you get her playing for your town at the upcoming Australian Open?
It’s easy – the more points you earn by completing challenges, the more points you earn for your nominated town. And the higher your town finishes on the leader-board, the more chance it will have of being represented by a highly seeded player. The top two towns on the leader-board will flip a coin to see which one scores the top-seeded male player, or the top-seeded female.
Your town could be associated with Jankovic at Australian Open 2014; giant information screens around Melbourne Park, plus scheduling signage, would feature her name, nationality and the Australian town she’s ‘playing for’.
It’s a pretty exciting concept, especially when you consider the prizes on offer. If your representative player wins the men’s or women’s Australian Open singles title, your town will be treated to an AO Blitz party for the entire community, and a whole host of other prizes.
Melbourne Park is a place where the Serb has thrived, and she could very well come out of the Australian Open fortnight with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in her hands.
Jankovic’s best Australian run came in her banner 2008 season; she saved match points the opening round against Tamira Paszek to win 12-10 in the third, before upsetting defending champion Serena in a memorable quarterfinal stoush. She ultimately fell in the semifinals to Maria Sharapova, but the success paved the way for an incredible season, which also saw her win through to her only Grand Slam final at the US Open.
She’s clearly comfortable and experienced on the big stage, and Melbourne Park’s Plexicushion courts reward her dynamic game. She’s perhaps the women’s equivalent of Andy Murray – most notable for her counterpunching ability and extraordinary defence, but with the ability to pull the trigger when need be, especially with that magnificent double-handed backhand down-the-line.
When confident, her game flows beautifully, and there’s little doubt Jankovic will arrive Down Under in January choc-full of self-belief following a stellar 2013, and ready to impose that game on her rivals in the draw.
By registering for the AO Blitz and completing as many challenges as you can, you'll increase your chances of having this flamboyant competitor playing for your town at Australian Open 2014.