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Jankovic proves she has the passion back

Jelena Jankovic of Serbia checks a line call during her women's singles quarter-final match against Maria Sharapova of Russia at the French
Jelena Jankovic of Serbia checks a line call during her women's singles quarter-final match against Maria Sharapova of Russia at the French

By Martyn Herman

PARIS (Reuters) - Ask Marko Jankovic whether his sister Jelena has got the passion back for tennis and the answer would be a resounding yes.

Marko, her interim coach, took his place in Chatrier Court at the French Open on Wednesday and was in the firing line as the 28-year-old lost in the quarter-final to defending champion Maria Sharapova despite a stunning first set which she won 6-0.

Former world number one Jankovic is refreshingly quiet when she strikes the ball, but the volume went up as she aimed a non-stop monologue at the elder sibling who encouraged her to take up tennis when she was a nine-year-old.

While the angriest comments were fired his way after a losing point or a Sharapova winner, she sometimes looked daggers towards Marko after coming out on top in rallies.

It was nothing personal, though, as Jankovic explained.

"At one stage I lost the hunger and was just flat on the court, and that showed in my face when I competed," she told reporters after a 0-6 6-4 6-3 loss in her first grand slam quarter-final since 2010.

"Now I think I'm a different person. Even though I'm yelling, whatever I'm doing on the court, this is me. This is what the sport is all about.

"It's about passion, about really enjoying yourself. Even though I'm sometimes getting frustrated I really enjoy being there and competing and putting myself into position to win these big matches in front of a huge crowd on a huge court."

For the 28 minutes it took her to win the first set Jankovic was playing like the player who topped the rankings in 2008.

Sharapova recovered from a rare "bagel" to snatch victory but knew she had been in a scrap.

At 3-3 in the decider the outcome was too close to call but Sharapova contrived to make one audacious angled backhand and another screaming forehand winner to get the decisive break.

"She came up with some winners. That backhand, it was like between a dropshot and an angle, I don't know how she does that, but it was an amazing shot. Even if it was luck or not," Jankovic said of her old sparring partner from their days at the Nick Bollettieri academy.

"Credit to her. At the end she was a better player. I was a bit unlucky, but I fought. I fought hard until the end."

Jankovic, who finished a year outside the world's top-20 for the first time in five years, said the turning-point of her season came after tearing a thigh muscle in January.

"After that I said I really can't take this anymore. I wanted to put myself into great shape and give myself a chance to compete," said the 18th seed.

"I have been beating good players and today I put myself in a position to beat Maria."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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