This year’s French Open tennis championships currently entering their final days in Paris are fast turning into a sporting fest for Serbia.
In the women’s tournament it’s assured of having one player in the final and in the men’s competition 21-year-old Novak Djokovic has a fair shot of repeating his success in the year’s opening Grand Slam tournament in Australia.
Not bad going for a nation of just over 10 million and tennis federations from many other countries, who spend millions in nurturing new talent, will be looking on enviously.
Thursday will see Ana Ivanovic take on fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic in a match which pitches both the world’s and the tournament’s second and third ranked players against each other for a place in the final.
Ivanovic has already reached the final of one Grand Slam this year – in Australia – and was runner up at Roland Garros last year, losing in the final to Belgium’s Justine Henin.
And she has been the bookies’ bet to lift this year’s title ever since the surprise defeat of the pre-tournament favourite and world number one, Russia’s Maria Sharapova, in the fourth round.
She also holds a 5-1 lead over Jankovic in head-to-heads, although the self-effacing 20-year-old was quick to point out after her quarter final win that even though the two had played each other in the past and had tough matches, they had not yet met in a Grand Slam tournament.
Neither Ivanovic nor the 23-year-old Jankovic has exactly had a tough time of it in this year’s competition, dispatching opponents with clinical ease without dropping a set between them.
Indeed Ivanovic’s progress this far has also included a 6-0, 6-0 fourth round drubbing of the Czech Republic’s Petra Cetkovska, after which she modestly said that the win had been much tougher than it had probably looked.
The two players are hard-hitting baseliners who are not afraid to come to the net and both of them are firm favourites with the crowds. Much has been made of Ivanovic’s looks – stunning by anyone’s standards – and the ever-smiling Jankovic never seems to let anything on court upset her.
Even though the 23-year-old Jankovic has been nursing a shoulder injury throughout this year’s competition, she remained optimistic after her quarterfinal straight sets win against Switzerland’s Patty Schnyder over her chances of reaching her first Grand Slam final.
While Serbia is guaranteed a player in the final of the women’s draw, it’ll be a much harder task for Djokovic to keep the country’s flag flying in the men’s competition.
He faces a semi-final clash with the three-times winner and reigning champion at Roland Garros, Spain’s Rafal Nadal. The two men have already met 10 times with the Spaniard leading 7-3 in head-to-heads. His most recent victory over Djokovic came just last month on clay in the semi-finals of the Hamburg Masters.
And even if the Serb makes it past Nadal there is always the spectre of possibly having to face Switzerland’s world number one Roger Federer in the final.
Mind you that shouldn’t frighten Djokovic too much. Even though the Swiss leads 6-2 in head-to-heads, Djokovic beat him in the semi-finals of the Australian Open this year, before going on to lift the title.
And he for an extra confidence boost he need look no further than last August’s ATP Masters series in Montreal, Canada, when he beat both Nadal in the semis and Federer in the final.
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