It was snowing when Jelena Jankovic left Belgrade last week. There is snow here too, thanks to the extraordinary indoor ski resort a few miles up the road at Ski Dubai, but on centre court at the Aviation Club yesterday it felt hot enough to fry an egg let alone melt a snowflake.
With the temperature approaching 30C and the sun burning brightly from a clear sky during the hottest part of the day, Jankovic admitted she had felt the pace in taking more than two and a quarter hours to beat Aravane Rezai 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in her first match at the Barclays Dubai Championships. The 24-year-old Serb struggled to adjust to the heat, wind and light, not to mention the tricky combination of a slow court and fast balls.
Rezai, who has climbed to her highest world ranking at No 21, had her chances. The 22-year-old Frenchwoman led 3-1 in the final set and had two break points at 5-5. As Jankovic recovered in the chilly air-conditioned post-match interview room – "It's like Serbia in here," she said, wrapping herself in a towel – the world No 8 was pleased with the way she had fought back to win "a really difficult match".
While the conditions were a sharp contrast to Belgrade, where she played indoors in the Fed Cup against Russia, Jankovic clearly likes Dubai. The former world No 1 moved into a residence here last year and has been looking at properties to buy. She fancies an apartment in the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, or on the Palm Jumeirah, a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree.
Like Roger Federer, who also spends part of the year here, Jankovic enjoys the opportunity to train in warm weather. "As a professional player I think you need this kind of facilities and conditions in order to prepare for some events," she said. "I love the people here and I love the weather."
Caroline Wozniacki, the world No 3 and top seed, is another European with a liking for warmer climes. The 19-year-old Dane, who beat Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova, spent her winter holidays in Mauritius with her fellow professionals, the Polish Radwanska sisters, and in Barbados with her family. Between tournaments Wozniacki trains in Monte Carlo, meaning she spends little more than two weeks a year back in Denmark.
Wozniacki now plays Shahar Peer, the Israeli who was refused a visa to play here last year. Peer, who beat Virginie Razzano, is enjoying herself, despite the heightened security around her matches and the fact that she has to use a separate changing room from the other players. "I might ask for it at every tournament," she smiled. "I'm already friends with everybody who takes care of me."
Venus Williams, the No 3 seed, opened her campaign with a comfortable 6-2, 6-3 win over Germany's Sabine Lisicki, while Elena Dementieva, the No 5 seed, retired hurt with what appeared to be a shoulder injury after losing the first set to Daniela Hantuchova.
Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong, the current and former British No 1s respectively, are playing in the Women's Tennis Association event in Memphis this week. Baltacha, who won a $100,000 International Tennis Federation tournament in Michigan on Sunday, maintained her fine form to beat the Czech Republic's Renata Voracova 7-5, 6-1 last night and now meets the Canadian, Valerie Tetreault.
Keothavong is making her comeback after more than six months out with ligament damage to her left knee. She won two matches in reaching the quarter-finals in Michigan and has also enjoyed a good start in Memphis, her first tournament back on the main Sony Ericsson tour, beating Germany's Kristina Barrois for the loss of just four games. She now meets Michelle Larcher de Brito.Reuse content