Jelena Jankovic hailed Serbia’s rise as a power in world tennis after making a dominant start to her French Open campaign.
Jankovic is one of three Serbs positioned in the top 10 of the men’s and women’s rankings, along with Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic.
Of the three, Jankovic – the fourth seed – is best placed to have a run at the title at Roland Garros this year, and proved her credentials by demolishing Stephanie Foretz 6-2 6-2 today.
She has already won three tournaments this year, and her exploits are one of the reasons why tennis is attracting so many fans back in her country.
“It’s really amazing how all of a sudden we have three top-10 players,” said Jankovic.
“I’m really proud of that. We didn’t have anybody before, and we don’t have a tradition in tennis.
“We are very good in team sports, but in individual sports we didn’t have much success.
“That’s changing now and tennis is becoming really, really popular.”
Her wins in Auckland, Charleston and Rome have led many to believe Jankovic is the woman most likely to threaten reigning champion Justine Henin at Roland Garros this year.
She is taking it in her stride, though.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” she said.
“I’m just enjoying myself. I just want to try to give my maximum every time I step on the court, and that’s all I care about.
“It was my first match and you don’t play your best tennis in the first match.
“But I’m getting used to the atmosphere and the courts. Hopefully I’ll get better and better.”
Two other dark horses – Elena Dementieva and Nicole Vaidisova – were in action today.
Both won, Dementieva beating Germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-2 and Vaidisova overcoming Emmanuelle Gigliardi of Switzerland 6-4 6-3.
Dementieva, the 13th seed from Russia, was the runner-up here in 2004, when she lost to Anastasia Myskina in the first all-Russian grand-slam final.
Dementieva and Jankovic are scheduled to meet in the quarter-finals.
Vaidisova, the prodigious talent from the Czech Republic, was a semi-finalist here last year, but has been struggling with a wrist injury of late.
“I had a lot of good memories from last year,” she said.
“But I have had some weeks off because of the injury so there are no expectations on me, no pressure.
“I’m just coming here to play my best and have fun.
“I’ve been practising for the last week and a half at 100%, so I am not thinking any more about my wrist.”
Nadia Petrova, the 11th seed, was the biggest casualty elsewhere in the women’s draw.
The Russian has been struggling with injury recently and she appeared to move gingerly throughout her 7-5 5-7 6-0 defeat to Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic.
The rest of the seeds had a good time today.
Marion Bartoli, the 18th seed, won her all-French battle with Aravane Rezai quite comfortably, dispatching the youngster 6-2 6-4.
There were also straight-sets wins for 28th-seed Mara Santangelo, 23rd-seed Francesca Schiavone and 20th-seed Sybille Bammer.