Jelena's season took a turn for the worse with two poor performances against players she should have beaten easily at Doha this week.
She had seemed to have put her slump of 2003 behind her with an amazing run to the final of Zurich (beating Kim Clijsters in the semis) last October, and reaching the semi-finals of Tokyo, her first tournament of 2004.
Her loss against Elena Bovina at Paris seemed to be just "one of those things" against a dangerous opponent, and I was even prepared to dismiss her 6-1 6-2 loss to Petra Mandula at Dubai as an abberation.
But the way she struggled past Nicole Pratt 0-6 6-3 6-4 in the first round of Doha - after leading 5-0 in the second and 5-0 in the third too - and then crashed 6-4 6-1 to Zheng Jie (Zheng is the surname) in the second round, suggests that her form and confidence are currently as low as they were in the middle of 2003.
Jelena after beating Pratt:
"It was an up-and-down match. I just didn't play in the first set. The match before mine [Martínez v Barna] was quite long and I kind of felt sleepy. She played well in the first set, but I started to focus better in the second and I am happy that I won."
Jelena after losing to Zheng:
"I could have won if I had served better, but somehow I lost my rhythm and I kind of got bogged down there. I know that I am going through a slump. It'll take some time for me to start playing well and win matches."
Zheng after beating Jelena:
"I am feeling good. I will remember this victory for the whole of my life. I didn't expect to win today because Dokic is a good player."
Modest words from the world #77, but the phrase "lost to a player who has never been a player and, I guess, probably never will be" arises in my mind!
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Jelena had her left thigh strapped, but it looks like her major problem was a lack of form and confidence. Right now she seems more troubled than Daniela Hantuchová, even though Jelena is currently ranked #15 while Daniela is #35. These two nearly-21-year-olds should be spearheading my fanship this year, and I hope they will both have great runs at Indian Wells.
Dr. Andrew Broad