January 28, 2009 / 5:59 PM / 11 years ago

Former Davis Cup coach criticizes Serbian trio

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia’s three leading tennis players need to work harder and eliminate the weaknesses from their game if they are to survive at the top, former Yugoslavia Davis Cup coach Radmilo Armenulic said.

Novak Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic all had below-par performances at the Australian Open and Armenulic said the former two had arrived too late to acclimatize to the scorching January heat in Melbourne Park.

“Djokovic and Jankovic should have gone to Australia much earlier in order to acclimatize, at least one month in advance,” Armenulic told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“One needs as many matches as possible prior to the Open to get used to the heat and players who have done that are doing well in the tournament,” he said.

World number three and defending champion Djokovic retired in his quarter-final against American Andy Roddick on Tuesday.

While the Serbian got little sympathy from other players, Armenulic said he did the right thing.

“He came close to collapsing out there and although I can’t comment on his record of quitting that seems to irritate other players, he had no choice this time because consequences could have been dire if he had carried on.

“On the other hand, he needs to take a look at what he is not doing right and work harder to improve his game. He must raise his fitness and his physical strength to a new level and that means he has to spend more time in the gym.

“The girls, Ivanovic and Jankovic, should also analyze their below-par performances while the latter really needs to improve her second serve, which is easy prey for her rivals.”

Ivanovic was ousted by Russia’s Alisa Kleybanova in the third round while world number one Jankovic saw her dream of winning a first Grand Slam tournament vanish into thin air after a 6-1 6-4 fourth-round drubbing by Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli.

Armenulic, who guided the former Yugoslavia to the Davis Cup World Group semi-finals in 1988, said the media hype had affected their focus.

“Especially Ivanovic, who can’t deal with the frenzy triggered by fashion magazines declaring her the beauty queen of the WTA circuit,” he said of the reigning French Open champion.

“She is only 21 and it is just too much for someone of her age, she is too exposed to all those unwelcome distractions, including questions about her private life.

“But what she has to do is hire a full-time coach to improve her serve-and-volley game and rediscover her devastating forehand, which let her down in Melbourne.

“The time ahead will be a real test of her will and character, and I hope it shows that all three have encountered a temporary glitch and not a crisis.”

Editing by Miles Evans

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