A tale of two contrasts

Jelena Jankovic overcame windy conditions to beat Ana Ivanovic 6-3 6-4 in round-robin play at the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha.

Jelena Jankovic returns a forehand to her compatriot Ana Ivanovic.
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DOHA // It is remarkable how differently the world No 1 ranking has affected two charming young Serbian rivals in an eventful year when five different women have claimed the coveted honour. The accolade weighed heavily on the shoulders of Ana Ivanovic, who celebrates her 21st birthday in Doha today, as a declining fourth in the world. Hampered by injury shortly after the highlight of her brief career - a first grand slam title at Roland Garros in June - she went into alarming freefall as form and confidence deserted her in ensuing tournaments. Contrast that with Jelena Jankovic, who has been invigorated by the right to call herself the best in the world until at least the first major event of 2009 - the Australian Open which she is now regarding as a realistic first grand slam target. The two met in the opening rubbers of the Sony Ericsson Championships and Ivanovic, who had won their previous five battles for national bragging rights, said she noticed a considerable upsurge in her opponent's level of confidence as she was sent packing in straight sets. Jankovic, who was presented with a trophy from WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott in recognition of her ending the year on top of the rankings, agreed that she had gained in self-belief from her enhanced status in the game. Jankovic, who this evening takes on Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second of her three round-robin matches at this end-of-season showpiece, reflected on her impressive victory: "Since the last time we played, which was in the French Open semi-finals, I have improved so much. "My game has gone to another level, so I was able to play some better tennis and really win in two sets in a good way. I did all the right things at the right moments so I'm happy for that." "Since the Olympics, I've had no health problems and I have been able to work on my game and results are coming. I've been winning a lot of matches and I'm a completely different player. Jankovic then spoke about how she is enjoying her spell of world dominance. "I don't feel any pressure at all whatsoever. I just feel more motivation and determination, and it even inspires me to keep going forward and keep getting better and better each time. "Every time I go on the court I feel like I'm the No. 1 player in the world, and I go with that confidence. I just believe in my game and in myself. I just keep going, and I would like to keep winning as long as it is possible. That will mean I will finish the year in a good way, in the best possible way, hopefully." Victory over Kuznetsova in tonight's opening match will put Jankovic firmly on course for Saturday's semi-finals and keep her in line for a jackpot payday of more than $US1.3million (Dh4m). wjohnson@thenational.ae