Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic have opposing styles both on the court and off.

We got a double dose of the Serbian women today here at the East West Bank Classic just south of Los Angeles. One after the other. First Ana Ivanovic defeated Maria Kirilenko, 6-4, 6-4, and then Jelena Jankovic defeated Victoria Azarenka, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2. They’ll meet in the semifinals tomorrow but the contrast in their personalities is as fascinating as any match they’ll play.

Ana has model good looks in that baby-face way that made Anna Kournikova so deliciously appealing. It’s that combination of openness and sensuality that literally pulls you in. She’s very affable and eager to cooperate. Ask her about her match and she’ll spill out a summary that could end up in tomorrow’s sports pages without any further editing. For example:

I was 5-2 up with a double break and she played an unbelievable game on my serve. She was just going for her shots and I was mostly running and defending in that game and then she served well. On a break at 5-4 I was trying to focus on what I have to do and just realizing that I have still to be aggressive and not wait for her to miss because she was on a run. Yes, I served very well that game and I was really happy I closed the match.

And then there is Jelena. She has exotic looks with a long, distinctive face instead of that round baby face. Rather than being eager to please, she says whatever comes to her mind and doesn’t care what you think. And she won’t hesitate to call you out if you’re wrong. For example, when someone asked her how she felt about playing Ana tomorrow she said:

It’s just like any other match for me …it’s just another girl on the other side of the net.

Is that a bit of antipathy on Jelena’s part towards her countrywoman? No it’s not and if you think that, you can blame the media:

The media, most of the time, you guys, you make some kind of, like when we get off the court we kind of hate each other for no reason. Nothing really happened between us…I think that’s wrong.

When one of us accursed media suggested that people were just interested in a rivalry she said the following:

I don’t want to look behind me, you know, I want to look in front of me. I am the number three player in the world and I’m looking at number two and number one.

Ana is ranked number five by the way. Can you really blame the media?

They’re playing style is different too. Ana depends on a big serve and forehand and she likes to end points quickly. If Jelena can get her into long rallies tomorrow, she could beat her with her speed.

They don’t even agree on their first meeting. Ana says they met at that famous swimming pool when Jelena was 10 and Ana was 8. There weren’t many tennis facilities in war-torn Serbia so a swimming pool was emptied and converted into a few tennis courts. Ana says that Jelena beat her easily.

Jelena says that is completely wrong because she didn’t even start playing until she was 9 ½ years old and was still only a beginner at 10 years old. She did play in the swimming pool, though, and she won a tournament there. Instead of a trophy she received a watermelon.

As Jelena left the media room, she picked up a deflated oversized rubber tennis ball in the shape of a watermelon and asked if anyone wanted an autograph.

Not yet, we’ll just keep watching the rivalry. That’s more fun.


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