Serb’s Up: Djokovic, Ivanovic, Jankovic All Aussie Open Title Contenders
by Abe Kuijl | January 23rd, 2008, 12:45 pm

Who can stop the surging Serbs? Ivanovic and Jankovic are the Eastern European answer to the Williams sisters, while Novak Djokovic is shaping up to be Roger Federer’s main rival on anything but clay. All three of them have got a legitimate shot at winning their first major this week in Melbourne.

Djokovic did himself a great favour by avoiding the grind against David Ferrer today. Yes, the Spaniard was hitting more than a few unforced errors out there, but Djokovic was playing excellent tennis for the first two-and-a-half sets, dominating the Spaniard from the backcourt playing controlled aggressive. He admitted he got a little nervous with the finish line in sight, which cost him a 5-3 lead and four match points, but Djokovic wouldn’t  waste any extra time and finished the match off in three sets nonetheless. Can you believe he’s in the semis facing Federer, having spent less time on court than the Swiss? 

More surprising than Djokovic’ win over Ferrer was the performance Ivanovic put on against Venus Williams. Both women exchanged breaks three times during the first half of the opening set, with Venus only winning 2 points in her first three service games. Venus wasn’t hitting too many first serves, and Ivanovic won every point on Williams’ second serve until she overhit a forehand return on break point for a chance to go up 5-3.

In the tiebreak, Venus failed to make her experience count as she missed some routine shots to hand Ivanovic the opening set. On set point, Venus missed an easy backhand drive-volley, after earlier on in the match she dumped a somewhat similar ball with a one-hander into the net.

Ivanovic needed some time to think about winning her first career set against Williams, as she immediately fell a break behind in the second. Venus got down well for a low backhand volley in the best rally of the match to take the 2-0 lead.

Down 0-3 and serving at 30-30 all, Ivanovic hit what would turn out to be a crucial backhand down the line winner. It was a risky shot but it paid off, and these kind of gutsy plays were exactly what won the Serb the match in the end. Ivanovic wasn’t afraid to step up and hit a big ball on the important points and she really played her best tennis during the last few games of that second set, in which Venus definitely pushed her to the limits. The Wimbledon champion held two break points at 5-4, but Ivanovic hit a winning serve on 15-40 and an ace down the tee to get back to deuce. Two misses by Venus won her the match. 

Ivanovic now has an excellent shot at reaching her second Slam final, as she faces the competent, but non-elite Daniela Hantuchova.

Ivanovic and Hantuchova have met three times before, all in 2007. I remember their first encounter, on the grass of Rosmalen (the tournament that is officially listed as ‘s-Hertogenbosch), quite vividly. I was watching their quarterfinal with Djambuli Chakvetadze, who midway through the match made the priceless remark: “This is no tennis.” He was spot on, as it was indeed painful to watch both women spray one shot after another, until Hantuchova had eventually won 6-3, 6-1.

There’s plenty of reason to expect a better match this time, as Hantuchova was very impressive in her quarterfinal win over the fast-rising Agnieszka Radwanska. I don’t see the Polish girl as a consistent future Top 10 player, but she hasn’t exactly been flying under the radar ascending the rankings. She’s already beaten three high-profile Russians on Tour in Sharapova, Kuznetsova and Petrova.

Ivanovic and Hantuchova don’t have time for a day’s rest, as they’ll be back on court tomorrow for their semifinal. Even though Hantuchova has been playing on Tour for almost ten years, it’s Ivanovic who’s actually got the most experience at this stage of a Grand Slam. Hantuchova has never been in a semifinal of a major before, and I don’t believe she’ll take that personal record one step further by advancing to the final. I’ll pick the red-hot Ivanovic in two sets.

The one-to-watch should be that other semifinal, featuring the two Bolletieri prodigies Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic. In the three times they’ve played out their match (Jankovic retired once against Sharapova too), it went to three sets each time. Sharapova leads those battles 2-1, but lost their last match in the Birmingham final last year, 7-5 in the third. The match-up is very enticing, with Sharapova the aggressor against the natural counter-puncher, Jankovic, but the million dollar question is, how will JJ hold up physically? I can’t see her running down Sharapova-bombs for three sets, considering she has been complaining about her physical state in every press conference she’s given. Both players are high on confidence, but I’ll stick with Masha to pull through. Jankovic only has a real shot at winning if she could claim the opening set.

A quick word about the Nadal – Tsonga duel: Little Muhammad has had a great run so far, but I just can’t see the guy taking three sets from Rafa in a Grand Slam semifinal. The first set plays an important role in this match as well. I read somewhere this week, or was told about the fact that Nadal has never lost a Grand Slam match in which he won the first set, except for his loss to David Ferrer at the US Open last year. I wouldn’t quite pick Tsonga over Ferrer on endurance.

Quote of the day goes to chair umpire Steve Ullrich, who tried to silence a loud baby during the Djokovic – Ferrer match by suggesting: “Please give our crying friend the bottle.”

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23 Comments for Serb’s Up: Djokovic, Ivanovic, Jankovic All Aussie Open Title Contenders

Zola Says:

The Serbs are cruising. Djoko was running out of steam at the last set of the match but Ferrer realized it very late. If Ferrer could have won the third set, we might have had another contender.
But I like Jpker’s chancer more against Federer. He is more hungry to win and is desparate to prove himself. Amazingly Both Joker and Federer are showing signs of nervousness. Rafa has been very happy on the other side. SO, if he wins Tsonga and can play the final, he will have that edge over a mentally exhausted Joker or Federer. So I am hoping RAfa can win tonight.

It will be very hard, because Tsonga is a big guy with a very aggressive play. If Rafa stays feets behind the baseline, Tsonga can runaway with the match. I am assuming the model to beat Rafa is NAlby and Ferrer and RAfa should take note of that. All in all, will be a very tough match tonight!

Chess Strategy, Chess Online, Chess Rule - » Blog Archive » Who can stop the surging Serbs? Says:

[...] Jan 23 Who can stop the surging Serbs? By Add commentsChess News, Chess Online This question opens Abe Kuijl’s article Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic have sent sisters Williams, Susan Polgar’s favorites, home and Novak Djokovic eliminated Spaniard David Ferrer, all three to reach semifinals at the Australian Open. [...]

evil bob Says:

I would have to disagree about Rafa v Tsonga. Tsonga has the exact type of game that Rafa struggles against on hard court – monster server, powerful flat ground strokes from both wings, moving to the net to finish off points & excellent defense.

Provided Tsonga can hold it together mentally (and I thought he did well in that department against Youhzny), I think he’s got a pretty good chance to win.

Interestingly enough Tsonga might be the first player Rafa has faced who can match him in terms of power, speed and athleticism.

jane Says:

Tsonga hasn’t had to play many long matches here – no 5 setters – so if it goes the distance, Rafa may have the edge in terms of both experience and, as Abe points out, endurance. But for sure Tsonga could trouble Rafa if he doesn’t play aggressive.

andrea Says:

jeez. if only ferrer could have forced the tie break and won the third set….djokovic was clearly getting nervous and slowing down…it seemed like it took 2.5 sets for ferrer to find his groove….

i know he’ll come out with all engines firing against roger but my gut tells me he won’t be the victor….

Zola Says:

evil Bob,
I totally agree that Tsonga has a game that can trouble Rafa. But as the world No 2, Rafa has to use his experience and his fitness to pull it off. I hope it won’t be a long , grueling match for Rafa. That won’t be good if he wants to play the final. But first things first. Please win tonight Rafa!

Agree wih your point too. Fed said in his presser that he is doing lots of the adjustments automatically now. He is No 1 for a reason and even if he hasn’t been as dominant as last year, I still think his game is head and shoulders above the Joker. Besides, Joker attitude doesn’t sit well with many and even if they say they don’t care, they leave the beat up for he court. Sure it will be an interesting match.

All aside, it is interesting that No 1, No 2 and No 3 are all in the semis of a Grand Slam! wow!

y0s3v Says:

Muhammad Ali defeated Rafael Nadal! His game macthes up well with Nadal’s. What a perfect final it would be, Federer vs Tsonga, and Fed would take the title!

Skorocel Says:

Wow! What a performance from Tsonga! He just mauled Nadal! Can’t believe the Spaniard won their only previous match (USO 2007) in 3 sets only to undergo such brutal beating!

andrea Says:

i had to go to sleep after 4/1 in the first but i knew when i woke up what the result would be….outstanding! he was so relaxed…like a walk in the park. i get good vibes from him.

Yosev Says:

Tsonga could be the next Sampras or even Fed. He is so relaxed and everything he does seems so natural. This is something that is shared by Sampras and Federer. Watch out! A new house of talent is coming to town! Also he seems to posses good mental approach to the game.

jane Says:

I agree, but part of the reason he’s so relaxed is that he has nothing to lose and no pressure. If he starts feeling pressure that might change, but it might not to. Good for Jo-Will!

sensationalsafin Says:


Tejuz Says:

Tsonga reminds me of Safin a little bit.. both pwerhouses.. but Tsonga has more variations, drop volleys etc.. whereas Safin has a better backhand.

SG Says:

i think we have to be careful hyping up Tsonga too much. ultimately, a champion is more than a pretty game. Just watching Cedric Pioline play, you’d think the guy should have been a top 3 player year in and year out. Same with Henri Leconte. But, it’s what’s between your ears that matters ever bit as much.

we’ll see how wilfy does in crunch time. the guy is pretty smooth out there. very relaxed too. but, is it merely a facade that hides an unrelenting desire to win like Sampras, or is he another Safin? tons of game but very little brain. time will tell.

SG Says:

i hope the guy is the real deal.

SG Says:

anyone wanna’ make a call on the Fed-Djok match tonight? this match kind of reminds me of a match between Chris Evert and Hana Mandlikova back in the 80′s at Wimby. Everyone was saying that Chris was ready to cash in her chips (she was slipping, blah blah blah) and Hana was going to kick her butt. That’s exactly what DIDN’T happen. Chris came out fired up and she took Mandlikova apart. I think Djoko may actually be a tad over confident about this one. I say Fed in four sets with the first 3 being hard fought and the last one kind of a breeze through.

Von Says:


“Ithink we have to be careful hyping up Tsonga too much. ultimately, a champion is more than a pretty game. ..”

I agree that we should not think of this guy as the next champ or think he would continue in this vein for years to come. He could be a flash in the pan, and we’ve seen many of those players. However, I felt that his performance against Nadal and could be the benchmark for playing agaisnt Nadal and others whose games are based on phyhsicality, e.g., Ferrer. He has continued and embellished on the Blake/Youzhny pattern of winning and neutralizing Nadal’s game.

I am going to go out on a limb and choose Federer for the win against Djok, based of the fact that Federer wants another slam. He has had an easy draw and is fresh. His matches showed vulnerability, and it seems as though his run is beginning to wane. Also, there is an urgency in Federer to break Sampras’ record like yesterday, due to a drop in his confidence. His manner is one of it has to be now.

Djok on the other hand has shown signs of vulnerabily regarding his breathing and not too crisp with his shot making. Had Hewit been more rested from the Baghdatis match, he most probably would have beaten Djok. And, we can’t forget Djok’s match against Ferrer wherein he had a meltdown in the last two games and was playing his shots merely on instinct.

If Federer wins his match against Djok and has to play Tsonga, I believe he’ll win, based on just one salient point, e.g, one of the commentators mentioned that Tsonga and Monfils patterned their serve on the Roddick serve and practiced it to perfection from tapes. That being the case, we all know how easily Federer reads Roddick’s serve. However, there’s a but, even though Federer could possibly block and neutralize Tsonga’s serve, Tsonga has crisp net play, a good backhand, speed/athleticism and a great all-court game which is lacking in the Roddick game.

All things considered, I’ll pick Federer, based only on the foregoing. However, Tsonga in addition to his great ground strokes/all court game is riding high on the wave of his wins and could piggyback on that high, taking him to new heights = an AO championship.

I’ll probably end up with egg on my face and I won’t lie, I am not a Federer fan and would be happy to see someone else win but, my gut feeling is that Federer will win.

andrea Says:

i think way too much emphasis has been put on the tipsarevic/federer match and that it went 5 sets, in regards to federer being vulnerable etc. roger’s played 5 matches since mid november and tipsaravic was playing great.

novak did a 5 setter against stepanek in the us open in the second round (supposed to be a routine win for him) and nadal did a 5 setter against murray last year at the AO in the quarters (i believe), so a 5 setter can sneak in on people, even the best ones.

and after seeing how novak was crumbling again physically and mentally against ferrer trying to close him out, i don’t see him beating federer.

he should also be a bit more humble cos he’ll have nothing but egg on his face if he loses to federer after all his attempts to psyche out federer with the “he’s vulnerable” “we can beat him” rhetoric he has been throwing at the press lately.

jane Says:

“I’ll probably end up with egg on my face and I won’t lie, I am not a Federer fan and would be happy to see someone else win but, my gut feeling is that Federer will win.”

Ditto – have the same feelings Von.

“he should also be a bit more humble cos he’ll have nothing but egg on his face if he loses to federer after all his attempts to psyche out federer with the “he’s vulnerable” “we can beat him” rhetoric he has been throwing at the press lately.”

andrea, I agree that Djok can be cocky, but he said that stuff in only one interview that I recall and early in the tournament, probably trying to psyche himself up rather than Fed out. In any case, the press have blown Djok’s “bravado” all out of proportion just as they’ve blown Fed’s vulnerability out of proportion.

Shital Green Says:

Good to see the same old people here ! I am watching the match between Djoko and Fed at 4:14 am CT, and it looks like Australian Open is Djoko’s to take this year as he takes 2 sets lead at this moment (7-5, 6-3). Or, it could be Tsonga’s.

jane Says:

Shital Green – nice to “see” you!!

WOW – Am I happy my feelings were wrong. What a great match by the Djoker. He played fantastically well and held his nerve AND his serve. He’s also proven himself.

First final of a slam in a long time in which the King AND Queen are both dead. For me, this is a great thing – mix things up a little.

Anyhow, am exhausted. The women’s final should be fun.

vincent Says:

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Novak Djokovic:

News article:

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Novak Djokovic is now 3rd on the official ranking, but soon will be the nr 1 of the world!

Get his racket, and make your offer today!

Von Says:


“WOW – Am I happy my feelings were wrong. What a great match by the Djoker. He played fantastically well and held his nerve AND his serve. He’s also proven himself.”

I congratulate Djok for a well-played match. However, I have mixed feelings about this one. Sometimes we want something but when it happens it doesn’t feel quite so good. I hope I am making some sense.

I would like to touch on a few observations and a very unbiased opinion of mine relative to Fed. I know I have been very vocal in my comments about Fed, but let’s talk about Fed the Tennis player/champion.

I believe Federer beat Federer. He placed an enormous amount of pressure on himself with the urgency to break Sampras’ record this year. That in itself can cause someone to lose control of their situation and color one’s perspective about their desires. There are a few other things that have been so blatant to me as an observer.

I retrospect, looking back to the ’07 AO, and what has transpired since then. Fed was not the same player in ’07 as he was in ’06. And judging by his performance in this AO, he’s not the same player.

♣Fed’s errant forehand has become a liability for over a year, something he needs to work on.

♣He has become a few steps slower, which happens as we age. He can’t run down the balls as he used to.

♣The 18-22 age group are not in awe of Fed and are not scared to take their game to him. They play well within themselves and are not deterred by his mastery of the game, because they have their own great shot making skills, and believe in themselves.

♣Fed became a little too smug with his game and did not pay enough attention to his inadequacies. He most probably was in denial, which happens to all of us, and he has not adjusted to those problems. I suppose he felt he could handle it. We as human beings ride on a wave of euphoria when things are going our way. I feel that this has happened to Fed.

♣Fed’s confidence has been sliding since the MS tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami. It was a revolving door with Fed. His tournament wins had become an unsure thing. Will he or won’t he. If that’s our feeling, how much more did it play on Fed’s mind.

I hope that Fed will look at this loss as a good thing and not take it as a negative or take everything for granted. When or if he loses the No.1 ranking, it will be a revolving door between the top 3, because they are the closest in the race of ranking points, etc. As a matter of fact, the No.2 ranking will become a revolving door because Nadal has been tested and proven to be vulnerable. He has his own problems. The predictability of tournaments has now acquired the status of unpredictability, suspense and intrigue.

I cannot say I am overjoyed for Djok. I feel that he is very cocky and blatantly vocal. I suppose it’s a family trait because his mother is very vocal also. She stated after the US Open ’07, that her son will beat Fed at the next grand slam they play. I suppose that’s why they were praying to make her statement prove to be true. And, that is really puting it on the line.

Jane sorry about the following:

Call me old fashioned or a snob, but I believe that there’s cheering and support and then there’s too much cheering, an overkill. Unfortunately, that’s how I see the behavior from his box. There aren’t too many players’ box support as demonstrative as his. They shout and clap and stand at nearly every point he wins. This was extremely visible at the US Open in ’07, with the chanting chorus of “Novak, Novak.” Whatever happened to grace and class? I know the British and Aussies do not behave in that manner about thier players. I believe that Djok made some enemies during his match with Fed by making some gesticulations toward the Aussie croud. Berdych made the same mistake in Spain and the fans booed him when he played his next match.

I find Djok’s breathing problems to be a sort of “psych out” for his opponents. He does that gasping act and then 5 minutes later he is smoking. It is diconcerting for an opponent to witness that type of problem because it places them in a position of suspense. Is this guy going to retire? How should I play against him? it’s a bit concerting to the opponent and breaks their focus.

Djok has a propensity for the dramatics/theatricals. He has a little bag of tricks, and I feel his gasping act played a big part in the Ferrer match. I believed Ferrer paid too much attention to Djok’s breathing problems and lost track of the match. To some extent it happened in the Hewitt match also.

In view of the foregoing, I feel that in some ways it is good for tennis that the total domination will end and I hope that Federer will relax and stop placing so much pressure on himself regarding the urgency to beat Sampras’ record. It took Sampras close to two or more years to win the final 2 slams to get him to 14 grand slam wins. Fed should find some comfort in this. All things in moderation! And, diversity is good for the sport.

I hope that my comments did not upset anyone, it was not meant to incur anyone’s anger, but just my views a an observer. I can say this much, that here isn’t any love love lost between Djok and Federer.

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