One of the first Jelena Jankovic matches that we saw live was against Maria Sharapova. As the Grand Slam champ did her trademark leisurely stroll around the back of the court, an impatient Jelena slammed a serve out wide past her startled opponent. When forced by the umpire to replay the point, the Serbian player got a new tennis ball and eyed the umpire. “Is she ready NOW?” she asked, the question dripping with sarcasm.
So began our love affair with this feisty princess — or “Empress JJ,” as fans like to call her. One minute she can be joking and grinning, the next she’ll be sending an icy stare down to her opponent as she hits a searing backhand down the line. Then she’ll be sprawled on the court, wailing protests about her level of play to her coach brother.
She’s an unpredictable study in contrasts of all kinds. She loves her fashion and bling, gracing the practice courts in pretty tennis dresses and make-up, elegantly dabbing her perspiration with a towel. For matches she has more recently decided to go make-up free: “Here I want to look like a beast. I just want to look as scary as possible. I don’t want to look pretty and all nice and dolled up.”
Once a #1 WTA player, Jelena struggled with injuries and setbacks but resurged in 2013 to get back to #8 and compete in the end-of-year championships. “I’m very happy and proud of myself that I was able to come back into the top and make that step forward,” she said in October last year. “I think a lot of players do well but once they drop they never come back.”
In our Beauty of Tennis series, we always like to choose a line or two of poetry for the player. In this case we thought several lines would do well for Jelena, an ode to a strong woman fending off her enemies, by Alfred Lord Tennyson:
But now when all was lost or seemed as lost—
Her stature more than mortal in the burst
Of sunrise, her arm lifted, eyes on fire—
Brake with a blast of trumpets from the gate,
And, falling on them like a thunderbolt,
She trampled some beneath her horses’ heels,
And some were whelmed with missiles of the wall,
And some were pushed with lances from the rock,
And part were drowned within the whirling brook:
O miracle of noble womanhood!’
The Serbian player has faced more struggles in 2014, forced to skip the Tournament of Champions due to a back injury. She’s recuperating for the next season, and we’re hoping she can come back strong and “trample” her opponents once again. Until then, ↓scroll down↓ and enjoy this black and white photo series honoring the player, her tennis form, her personality, her fabulous legs, and that famous ponytail…
(We do recommend viewing on a larger screen, but we’ve recently upgraded our galleries for an enhanced mobile experience.)
Click on any pic to start the SLIDESHOW. Let us know which shot is your favorite!
PHOTOS: c2014 Valerie David for TennisInsideOut.com. Please do not reuse without permission.
Poetry: Excerpt from “The Princess” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.