(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic considers shutting down season after latest injury setback

WASHINGTON D.C. – Former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic’s latest attempt to get her tennis career back on track was dealt another setback when she was forced to retire with a back injury in the first round of the Citi Open in Washington.

The 4-6, 6-3, 2-0 loss to fifth-seeded Oceane Dodin of France was Jankovic’s sixth loss in her past seven matches and after the contest, the 32-year-old Serb told Excelle Sports that she is considering shutting down for the rest of the season.

“I will see how it’s going, but I will probably end the season soon,” Jankovic said. “It’s not working. I haven’t made my decision yet. Maybe I will [play U.S. Open]. I will give myself another chance to recover, but we’ll see. I still don’t know.”

Jankovic, ranked No. 69, had high hopes entering the tournament. She had been vigorously rehabbing, recently took a few weeks off to recover from her injuries and was looking forward to playing in the District for the first time.

Against Dodin, Jankovic occasionally displayed flashes of the skills that propelled her to the top of rankings and the U.S. Open final in 2008, blasting deep, flat winners past her 20-year-old opponent. But early in the second set, Jankovic called a medical timeout and a trainer began to work on her troublesome back – an injury that has become more pronounced in the last year.

“I basically have chronic pain in my back and I’ve been suffering quite a lot,” Jankovic said. “Today, I do a lot of treatment and took painkillers. Before playing in China, I had three weeks off. I did not touch a ball, just trying to do rehab to settle this area down to help my body heal, but unfortunately it’s not enough. As soon as I have…to do those turns and as the match goes longer, I start suffering. I have pain, numbing in my leg. It’s really unfortunate. It’s been basically agony health wise, because I enjoy still competing and I love being out there. …It’s a shame my body just doesn’t let me, doesn’t help me. It’s really disappointing.”

Jankovic, who turned pro in 2000, partially attributes her back injury – which she said started “maybe five years ago” – to her success and the brief offseason and relentless grind of professional tennis.

“I think the problem with our sport is that the seasons are so long – from January to December,” Jankovic said. “I think if you have a successful year, you’ll suffer. …The more successful you are, the more hungry you are to play; you want to achieve new results; you want to compete more; you’re hungrier. You play more…and because the seasons are so long you basically have just a couple weeks a year in November to rest, then you’re training really hard in December to train for next season. So it’s like this season after season after season.”

Jankovic’s countrywoman and fellow former world No. 1, Ana Ivanovic, retired last December at age 29 after being unable to regain her old form. Jankovic isn’t there yet, but acknowledges that her injuries are preventing her from the proper preparation it takes to find success again on the court.

“Lately, I haven’t been really prepared,” Jankovic said. “People think I’m so fit, [but] that’s just my genetics. That’s how I look without doing anything, but honestly I’m really not in good shape and I’m hurt. I’m suffering with this health problem.”

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  • TariAkpodiete

    although she doesn’t seem to want to do so, probably it’s time to retire. one of the hardest decisions for athletes who’ve dedicated their whole lives to their sport.