French Open: Serbs make impression

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic advanced to the French Open semifinals for the first time with victories on Tuesday.

Updated: June 07, 2007 12:57 IST
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Serbia has limited tennis infrastructure and little state support for the sport. It also has three singles players left in the French Open.

Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic advanced to the French Open semifinals for the first time with victories on Tuesday, and Novak Djokovic will join them if he beats No 125th-ranked Igor Andreev in the men's quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Last week, Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia beat former top-ranked Marat Safin to make the third round.

"Wherever you go, it's just Serbians all over the place, winning all these matches," the fourth-seeded Jankovic said after beating Nicole Vaidisova 6-3, 7-5. "It's just incredible."

Ivanovic, who beat 2006 runner-up Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-0, 3-6, 6-1, said she drew inspiration from her fellow Serbs.

"We can all use others' successes as motivation," Ivanovic said. "People back home are very proud of us, and that makes us feel very good."

Jankovic plays No 1 Justine Henin on Thursday, while Ivanovic faces No 2 Maria Sharapova.

The Serbs have been approached to play for other countries - Djokovic for Britain, Ivanovic for Switzerland, and Jankovic for the United States. All declined, despite obstacles facing budding tennis talent in Serbia.

The war-wracked nation of 8 million touts a modest tennis tradition aside from nine-time Grand Slam champion Monica Seles, who was born in Novi Sad but is an ethnic Hungarian and an American citizen.

"All that we have in tennis here came from mud, from nothing," Tipsarevic said.

Djokovic, Jankovic and Ivanovic say their parents were their main financial backers - and they've spent time elsewhere. Djokovic was in Munich, Germany, for two years before returning to Belgrade, while Jankovic is based in Bradenton, Florida, and Ivanovic resides in Basel, Switzerland.

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