This week in Charleston, world No.121 Danka Kovinic made her way through qualifying, upset the 63rd-ranked Christina McHale in the first round and built up on it with a victory over world No.35 and 12th seed Belinda Bencic in the second round. Previously, Kovinic’s biggest win had come last year, over Karin Knapp, who was ranked No.67 at the time.
After all these successes, the highest-ranked Montenegrin, who had the second-fastest serve at the 2014 French Open, is awaiting a special match-up: her third-round opponent at the Family Circle Cup will be Jelena Jankovic, an idol-turned-into-a-friend, who wholeheartedly cheered for her courtside during the qualifying rounds. I’d like to share with you some quotes from Lindsay Gibbs’ excellent article about Jankovic as a mentor extraordinaire.
Jelena and Danka met at a Kid’s Day in a tennis club in Serbia, when Danka was just ten years old. That really puts things in perspective! And Danka was so excited when she got an opportunity to hit with Jelena that she swung at the ball and fell over. 😀 At least that’s JJ’s account of the event.
Here’s how Danka explains the development of their friendship:
Sometimes in Belgrade we practiced in the same club. Every time I saw her I’d say, ‘Hi, I’m Danka.’ When I was in Roland Garros we went to her apartment and she opened the door and I said, ‘Hi, I’m Danka.’ She said, ‘Okay, geez, I know, you can stop introducing yourself.’ From then I start to be relaxed, you know, to make friends.
Even though they’ve been friends, Danka still idolizes JJ, and here’s what JJ said this week in Charleston:
I’m her role model. She really admires me, has my shoes, has my things in her room, and it’s unbelievable that, you know, maybe I can play against her.