The Tennis Space: One to watch in 2014 – Jovana Jaksic

Serbia has produced more than its fair share of champions in recent years, with Jelena Jankovic reaching No 1, Ana Ivanovic winning the French Open and Novak Djokovic picking up six grand slam titles (so far) and inspiring his country to Davis Cup glory. Ever on the look-out for the next big thing, The Tennis Space spoke to Jovana Jaksic, a 20-year-old who won five ITF titles in 2013, climbing from 420 in the world to her current ranking of 152. Last week, she beat world No 30 and Wimbledon quarter-finalist Kaia Kanepi and big things are expected of her in 2014.

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What do you put your improvement in 2013 down to?

Well, last year I had some injuries, especially with my knee, so for six months I was not able to play without problems. At the beginning of this season, I was just hoping to be able to play without any injuries. I was supposed to be just playing qualies of 25Ks and 10ks (main draw) but then I did well, so I was able to play some bigger tournaments and get my ranking up.

You qualified in Monterrey and took a set off Maria Kirilenko in round two – that must have been a great feeling?

That was a really, really big experience for me. Until then I had only seen her on the television, I had no idea what it was like to play her. But then, when we played, it was actually good because when I went to the net, I remembered which side she liked to pass, from watching her on television! I talked with Ana Ivanovic before and she made me believe that I deserved to be playing this kind of player and tournament. That helped a lot.

So how well do you know Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic?

Jelena Jankovic used to train where I did, so I know her a little. But I am very close with Ana Ivanovic. She’s given me a lot of advice. She told me she believes in me. She said (people will) be watching me on television next season. It’s great having someone like her believing in me and it gives me a lot of confidence. Ana’s not in Serbia that often so I don’t see her that much at the moment. But hopefully next season I will get to play in the big tournaments and then we’ll see each other there and maybe warm-up together.

How would you describe your playing style?

I’m an aggressive player. I try to control the point early on. My favourite player when I was younger was Lindsay Davenport, I used to watch her matches on television and I liked the way that she was always aggressive. She didn’t like to run too much but she hit the ball hard and controlled the points.

Your goals must have changed now?

I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. My goal last year was to be in the top 250 but I moved past that (now 152). I hope to be in Australian Open qualies and also play at Wimbledon and the US Open. This is my plan. I really do enjoy it and I am going to keep working hard. If I have to say, I’d like to be top 100 next year, though I don’t want to make a big thing of it.

What are you most looking forward to next season?

Playing the big tournaments. To have the chance to play against the big players, who I have only seen on television. I’m looking forward to seeing how they play and what it’s like to play them. I really want to be there. I beat Kaia Kanepi last week and that has given me extra confidence for the next season.