WTA Stuttgart Interviews. Jankovic: “I did my first split in a really long time. So, I think the crowd enjoyed it.” - UBITENNIS
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WTA Stuttgart Interviews. Jankovic: “I did my first split in a really long time. So, I think the crowd enjoyed it.”

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TENNIS WTA Stuttgart – J. Jankovic d A. Kleybanova 6-4, 6-3. An interview with Jelena Jankovic.

Have you got Petar Popovic in your box?

Yes, for this week.

 

Is he working with you or just cheering?

He’s just helping and joining our team for this week. Because Karlovic was not playing this week. He’s working with Karlovic. He’s his coach. So, he’s just helping and joining the team for this week. He’s a good friend of ours. So, it’s nice.

So, your split and the time it took to get back up. Is that because you didn’t want to put your hand down or is it old age?

No, you know, actually this was my first split in such a long time. It brought back a lot of memories.

Some good, some bad?

Yes, when I was doing that all the time, it was a lot of fun when I was very flexible. I’m kind of still flexible but it’s so much more difficult to get up, that’s the difference. So, I’m kind of now afraid to do them, just so I don’t get injured because I had a lot of injuries not because of the splits but just because I’m not as flexible as I used to be. So, I’m working on it, it’s getting better. I did my first one in a really long time. So, I think the crowd enjoyed it.

So, looking ahead now to the semi-final, this was the first-round match that everybody was really looking forward to. Now it’s actually a semi-final. What are your thoughts?

Actually, it’s for the better that we are playing the semi-final than in the first round because one of us will be in the final and it’s great for our country. It’s going to be great for either one of us to be in the final, to be competing for the Porsche. It will be a tough match. We’ve had really tough matches in the past and she’s playing quite well in this moment. I hope to be playing well as well. So, hopefully it will be a good match and the better one will win.

And you’re going for the Porsche?

It would be nice to get that blue one to my collection. I love Porsches. I enjoy driving them. They’re such great cars, such amazing brand. So, it would be nice

It was a good match for you but you are never really satisfied about your game?

Never actually. I’m a perfectionist and I get off the court and I always feel that I could have done so much better. I think there is just something in my nature. I’ll never say that I played so well. I always think my opponents played much better and I was maybe lucky a little bit here and there. No, but I think that I served very well, especially that first set I think that was the key because I broke her in the first game of the first set and I was able to keep my serve throughout the first set and win it. So, in the second set my first percentage went down and I gave her a look at my second serve a lot more and she took advantage of that. But I was able to break back and stay strong mentally and kind of get through. It’s not easy, especially that I was playing my doubles partner, you know someone I know very well and she’s such a nice girl, such a great player. It’s never nice to be playing against each other. But that’s the draw and you feel kind of awkward, Even though we are all professionals, I want to win, she wants to win but it’s kind of weird. Tomorrow we’re together on the same side. So, it’s never easy to do that.

With everything that Alisa has been through, how inspiring to you think it is for her to come back, especially since she took out Kvitova in her first match?

She showed that she is such a strong girl and it’s very inspirational to others that she was able to come after such a tough illness and it’s even more amazing that she is here competing at such a high level against all of us here. I’m very proud of her and I’m a big fan of her. I cheer for her every time she plays against other people and I support her. She’s a lovely girl. She’s an amazing person which is more important than being a great player, at least in my opinion.

When it comes to talking to the press you’re one of the most entertaining players. Is it something you work on or…?

Do you think I work on this? Of course not. It’s just my nature. Even though you think I’m doing a press conference for me this is just fun. That’s how I am even if there were no cameras around. If you guys were with me when I’m in the restaurant or outside the tennis court, then you’d know me a little bit better, then you would know that’s how I am. I’m bubbly and I just like to talk, sometimes nonsense. No, but it’s nice to have a good time and make people laugh and spread that good energy. I think that’s most important.

Did you ever regret something that you said?

Sometimes. I kind of realized over time that if you say something in a joke people don’t say ‘ha, ha, ha’ in the newspaper and people can think I said it in a serious way and I was just trying to say something funny or it sounded differently, was taken in a different context. But that’s you know …

It doesn’t affect you?

No, because I know what I say, what I meant. But I try to be kind of careful.

The press used to make a big big deal of you and Ana, your backgrounds and of how you came to where you were. A few years are past now. I guess the two of you …, you play Fed Cup?

No, we’re fine. We are both such great players and nice girls. You know, that’s the sport. We are good professionals. We both want to win. That’s just basically it. There is nothing … like you play someone else. That’s how you have to look at it. It’s not easy playing someone from the same country. Like I said it’s going to be good whoever goes to the finals. It’s going to be a good result. So, we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully we both play good tennis.

Last time you played Ivanovic you won?

When was that?

Madrid.

Oh, it was Madrid. That was a long time ago. We’ll see. I think every match is different. It depends on which kind of form you’re in, your confidence, the way you’re playing, how you feel in the moment. We’ll see. We’re both playing pretty well in this moment and like I said the better one will win.

Interviews

EXCLUSIVE: Wimbledon Great Billie Jean King Gives Her Verdict On Jasmine Paolini

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Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss in the Royal Box - Credit: AELTC/Ben Solomon

Billie Jean King has told Ubitennis the game style of Italy’s Jasmine Paolini is ‘perfect’ for the grass as she pays tribute to the 28-year-old. 

King, who won 20 Wimbledon titles in both singles and doubles during her career, praised Paolini just hours before her semi-final match against Donna Vekic. The world No.7 had never won a match at The All England Club until this year but has stormed through the tournament by dropping one set in five matches played. She has beaten players such as former US Open champion Bianca Andreeescu, Madison Keys (who retired at 5-5 in the final set due to injury) and Emma Navarro. 

“I’ve always liked watching Jasmine for a while now, and I got to see her last year at the Billie Jean King Cup,” the 80-year-old told Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta.
“Italy lost to Canada, but I saw her there and she was amazing.
“Finally at 28, she’s she’s doing what I think she should have been doing.”

Paolini is enjoying the best season in her career. She won her first WTA 1000 title in Dubai, reached the final of the French Open and at least the semi-finals at Wimbledon. She is the oldest player on the WTA Tour to reach their first two major semi-finals since 1977, according to OptaAce. 

As for the grass, King says Paolini has a ‘perfect’ game for the surface. Even though the tennis star has previously spoken about her mixed feelings about playing on the surface. 

“On grass. She’s perfect.” King stated. 
“She’s low to the ground, she can volley, she can hit Groundstrokes. Big forehand. Unbelievable.”

Paolini is one of three women aged 28 or older to reach the last four at Wimbledon. Something that last occurred in 2018. As for the reason behind these players coming to top form at a later age, King admits she hasn’t got an explanation. 

“I have no idea.” She said
“I think she’s (Paolini) finally found herself and everybody gets to be their best at different ages.
“This year at Wimbledon, it seems like in the women’s events it’s now that they’re older, they’re doing better. So I don’t get it, to be honest.
“It’s the weirdest Wimbledon ever and I’ve been coming here since 1961!”

King has won an incredible 175 titles during her career in the Open Era. 101 of those were in doubles, 67 in singles and seven in mixed doubles.  

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EXCLUSIVE: Ex-No.1 Nenad Zimonjic Gives His Verdict On Djokovic And The Wimbledon Crowd

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Novak Djokovic might be the headline act when it comes to tennis in Serbia but Nenad Zimonjic also enjoyed his fair share of success in the sport. 

The 48-year-old is a former world No.1 in the men’s doubles which makes him one of only four players from his country to have ever topped the tennis rankings. During his career, he won eight Grand Slam doubles titles with five of them occurring in the mixed doubles. Overall, he won 53 trophies on the ATP Tour, as well as the Davis Cup where he later became the captain of the Serbian team.

Zimonjic has returned to Wimbledon this year to play in the Legends event. He has been keeping an eye on compatriot Djokovic and his bid to claim a historic 25th major title at Wimbledon.

“I think he’s been playing better and better as the tournament progresses.” He told Ubitennis.
“The last match (against Holger Rune), he played the best so far.
I expect him to play even better in the quarterfinal match against Alex de Minaur.”

Whilst Djokovic is gaining momentum, he has unexpectedly taken a swipe at the Center Court crowd following his latest win on Monday evening by accusing some members of being ‘disrespectful.’ Throughout the clash, there were shouts of the words ‘ruuune’ in a show of support for his Danish opponent. However, the world No.2 believes some were using those cheers as an opportunity to take a shot at him. 

Zimonjic, who is a long-time friend of Djokovic that travelled to Monte Carlo and Rome with him earlier this year, is unable to weigh in on this particular argument. However, he defends the British crowd at The All England Club where he made 18 main draw appearances as a professional player. 

“I didn’t get to see the whole match I cannot comment (on Djokovic’s remarks) because I wasn’t there.” He said. 
“But what I can say is that the crowd here (at Wimbledon) is very knowledgeable and really respectful to everybody.
“If there was somebody (being disrespectful to Djokovic) maybe there are a couple of people.
“So you cannot say this about the crowd. I’m sure it’s nothing nothing major.”

Djokovic continues to be a dominant force in tennis at the age of 37 and has no plans to step away anytime soon. However, when he does there will inevitably be a huge gap in Serbian tennis. The country currently has five players in the ATP Top 150 but only two of those are under the age of 25 – Hamad Medjedovic (20) and Miomir Kecmanovic (24). There is also 18-year-old Marko Maksimovic who is currently ranked in the junior top 20 on the boy’s Tour. 

“Hopefully some new, really good generations are coming up. We’ll see what the future brings.” Zimonjic commented. 
“It’s not going to be easy to match any of these results and the standards that he (Djokovic) achieved and all the records speak for themselves.
“Maybe they will never be broken, but, we’ll try to make it as better as possible.”

As for life on the Tour for those players, Zimonjic admits it is tough going due to the demanding schedule which starts from January until November. However, since last year the ATP have agreed to stage their Next Gen finals, which features the eight best players under the age of 21, in December. 

The schedule has been a long-debated subject that goes back to Zimonjic’s days on the Tour. 

“Our season is probably the longest in sport.” He said.
“It’s very demanding on the body, travelling, changing the time zones so you have to be extremely fit, mentally tough, and you need a really strong team around you and family support.
“If this can change, I don’t know. So far they (tennis’ governing bodies) haven’t found a way, but, hopefully, anyway, it got shorter a little bit compared to ten years ago was even longer.
“We had maybe three weeks to prepare for the next to rest and prepare for next season, which was really brutal.
“But the good thing is that tennis is very popular and people are following it.”

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EXCLUSIVE: ‘People Are Dying Everyday’ – Elina Svitolina’s Voice Is Important For Ukraine

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Elina Svitolina (UKR) playing against Magda Linette (POL) in the second round of the Ladies' Singles on No.2 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 4 Thursday 01/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jonathan Nackstrand

There was little celebration from Elina Svitolina after she reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon on a grave day for her home country. 

The world No.21 eased to a 6-2, 6-1, win over China’s Wang Xinyu without dropping serve, reaching the last eight of the tournament for the third time in her career. It is a huge boost for the 29-year-old who later admitted she didn’t feel like playing in the wake of a new attack against Ukraine. 

A Russian missile attack struck the country in daylight on Monday which resulted in the deaths of at least 36 people and caused significant damage to the main children’s hospital in Kyiv, according to officials. Reuters News Agency says they have a video showing a missile falling from the sky towards the children’s hospital followed by a large explosion.

“It’s an incredibly sad day today for all Ukrainians. It was really difficult for me to be here (at Wimbledon) in a way and do anything. I just wanted to be in my room, just be there with my emotions, with everything,” said Svitolina.

“Today was one of the days where it was even more difficult because the missile landed on the hospital, the kids’ hospital. Straightaway you see the images and everything that happened there. So many kids lost their lives.”

Svitolina took to the court wearing a black ribbon on her t-shirt in respect to those affected. The gesture was approved by The All England Club which usually has in place a strict all-white policy when it comes to attire. Throughout the war in Ukraine, she has spoken numerous times about the conflict and is an ambassador her the United24 fundraising platform, which was set up by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Evgeniy Zukin, who is the executive director of the Ukrainian Tennis Federation (UTF), spoke to Ubitennis following his compatriot’s latest win at SW19. He stresses the significance of Svitolina and her peers to continue speaking out about the war.

“It is important for Ukrainians to keep informing the world of the atrocities that are now happening in Ukraine,” said Zukin. 

“We know the public in the West is tired of bad news. Only disasters like today when many children were killed bring attention back to Ukraine. But unfortunately, people are dying every day and no less than today.”

Zukin’s words are also echoed by tennis journalist Sergey Kontorchik, who is the founder of Великий теніс України which is known in English as BTU. He is based in Dnipro, a city located in the centre of the Dnipropetrovsk Region which borders Donetsk. As somebody living in the conflict zone, Kontorchik is frustrated by the promotion of Russian and Belarussian athletes in the media whilst his athletes suffer. 

“No one is interested in the mental state of Ukranian players. You saw how hard it was for Svitolina after the match today,” he told Ubitennis from Dnipro on Monday afternoon.

“For Ukrainians, it is hard and it hurts. Our players receive negative criticism for not shaking hands with representatives of these countries. We are pushed to the background, far away, so as to not bring up an uncomfortable topic, the war, which continues to destroy our country.

“It is important to us (Ukrainians) when players talk and remind the world about the war, that Ukraine is still alive and continues to fight for independence. 

“It’s clear many people have forgotten.”

Wimbledon had previously banned Russian and Belarussian players from competing in the tournament in 2022 amid concerns that those governments could use the event as propaganda. The move prompted backlash from the governing bodies who removed the allocation of rankings points that year. The ban was lifted in 2023. 

“I would prefer that (the ban to still be in place) but it is how it is now,” said Svitolina. “I cannot change. We tried every possible way to talk with many organizations.

“For now I just want to raise awareness, to raise funds for people in need, to raise support for the kids through my foundation, through United24. So many ways we can help people and not only focus on the things we cannot control.”

The hope for Svitolina is that her tennis is providing comfort to those back home. Although dealing with her emotions due to the war is tough.

“I think for many Ukrainians they will share this feeling with me. We feel guilt that we feel happy or that we feel good. Not only because I’m in the quarterfinal of the Grand Slam but in everything,” she explained.

“Like you go on holidays, you feel guilty because you’re not in Ukraine. Many people cannot leave the country. Many people are at war. Many people are fighting, and defending our front lines.

“I think we’ve been living with this feeling for over two years. I mean, it’s nothing new. But yes, of course, it’s not a pleasant feeling to have.”

On court, things are going well for Svitolina. She has dropped only one set in the tournament so far, which was against Magda Linette in the first round. 

“She showed in the last year that she knows how to play on grass,” Zukin told Ubitennis about Svitolina. 

“After beating Ons Jabeur (in the third round) she felt confident and played flawlessly today.” 

Svitolina will next play Elina Rybakina. 

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