Former DFS Classic champion Jelena Jankovic has disputed the Lawn Tennis Association’s claim the game’s top stars prefer playing in combined men’s and women’s events, an argument that is a keystone to the governing body’s plans to take the tournament away from Birmingham and relocate it in London.
Jankovic, currently the No 2 seed at Wimbledon and bidding to win the first Grand Slam title of her career, also expressed her affection for the DFS Classic and outlined her hopes to come back to Edgbaston Priory in 2009 having been forced out this year with an arm injury.
The Serb won the DFS title in 2007 and looked set to return this year until she succumbed to the toll of reaching the semi finals of the French Open which left her unable to practise for nine days. That meant she had no time to make the challenging transition from clay, though having come through her first two rounds reasonably comfortably she looks to be fully recovered and in grass court mode.
But how many times the Second City will get to see Jankovic’s ability on the Edgbaston lawns is not clear. In a bid to reduce the £1.8 million losses incurred in the first three weeks of the grass court season - including £300,000 at the DFS, the LTA are about to launch a bidding process which means Birmingham will have to beat off opposition from cities like Nottingham - who are understood to be preparing a bid having had their men’s event taken away next year and Manchester if they are to keep the Classic in the Midlands.
As well as the drain on resources the LTA have claimed players want to be based in London and take part in combined events. Jankovic does not agree: "For me it’s the same. I don’t mind if we are all together or if we are separate," the 23-year-old said.
"It would be sad if Birmingham lost their tournament. We need some tournament in England before Wimbledon, one or two weeks before, it’s great for players to get some matches and get used to the grass.
"This year I haven’t played any tournaments before Wimbledon but I think it’s necessary to play at least one just to feel the atmosphere, get the timing on grass and feel comfortable before you play the big event."
Jankovic seems to have made the switch pretty well. She has not dropped a set in her two victories against Carlo Suarez Navarro and Olga Savchuk and with Maria Sharapova losing on Thursday her half of the draw is now a lot less hazardous, though a quarter final with champion Venus Williams will not be easy.
Nor has the viral condition that has blighted her build up. "I was disappointed that I couldn’t defend my title at Birmingham," she said. "I really like that tournament a lot and I think it’s great to get used to the grass.
"Due to some health problems I wasn’t able to go there and play, hopefully next year - if it exists still.
"Finally now I can play without pain though I am still not 100 per cent, I’m blowing my nose but it’s not that bad. Full fitness? I will never be perfect, I would love to get my shoulders stronger, faster, thinner legs."
Stocky they may be but those legs have made her one of the most successful players on the Sony Ericsson WTA tour. Until a few weeks ago the Serb had an opportunity to become world No 1 when she played Ana Ivanovic in the last four at Roland Garros. Unfortunately for her she lost a topsy-turvy three setter and the chance to make a first major final.
To achieve that feat at the All England club she must today beat 30th seed Caroline Woniacki in the third round. The two have never met and at just 17-years-old the Dane is one of the rising forces in the women’s game. Like Jankovic the 30th seed has not dropped a set though and has beaten Marion Bartoli twice this year and a fortnight ago knocked Svetlana Kuznetsova out of Eastbourne. Jankovic’s recovery will be tested all the way.