MELBOURNE, Australia - Ana Ivanovic describes her relationship with Jelena Jankovic as a healthy rivalry.
Jankovic says they have moved on from the past — particularly an unfortunate video clip in which she was caught mocking Ivanovic — and they get along fine.
Both are from Serbia and in their 20s. Both once held the No. 1 ranking and seemed headed for future tennis stardom, a destiny that both are still striving to fulfil.
Ivanovic, who already owns one Grand Slam title, took a step toward her dream of winning the Australian Open by beating Jankovic 7-5, 6-3 on Friday in a third-round match she described as "a battle." Throughout the match the 25-year-old Ivanovic punctuated winning points with her trademark fist pumps.
"It was intense from the first moment to the last," Ivanovic said.
The 2008 French Open champion has always seemed to have received more attention than Jankovic, partly because of her tennis and partly because of her celebrity good looks and high-profile boyfriends. She's dating Australian pro golfer Adam Scott, which gives her hometown credentials and made her the crowd favourite on Friday.
The No. 13-seeded Ivanovic took an early lead, surging to 5-2. She lost the next three games as Jankovic tried to wear down Ivanovic by sending her sprinting around the court on long baseline rallies. Ivanovic broke serve to pull ahead 6-5 and in the last game won a hard-fought point on a 26-shot rally. She won the set with an ace, after challenging a line call that had initially ruled the serve out.
Ivanovic had an easier time in the second set, wrapping it up on her second match point.
Both players hugged each other across the net and kissed on either cheek — and faced reporters' questions about the state of their relationship these days.
"It's fine. It's really good," said Ivanovic, who has won eight of their 11 career matches. "Of course there is going to be rivalry, but I think there is a healthy rivalry, too, because you kind of push each other."
Now Fed Cup teammates, they helped Serbia to its first Fed Cup final in 2012.
"We had a good week in Prague for the final of the Fed Cup. We were hanging out a lot, you know, joking," Ivanovic said. "It's nice, we've known each other for a while."
Asked if there was tension on the court on Friday, Ivanovic replied: "I think it's competitiveness. You have that with everyone you play, and especially someone coming from your country."
Both players had a standout year in 2008. They played each other in the 2008 French Open semifinals, which Ivanovic went on to win and then captured the No. 1 ranking. She held the top spot for a total of 12 weeks that year.
Jankovic was a runner-up at the 2008 U.S. Open, where she lost to Serena Williams. She, too, claimed the No. 1 ranking that year, holding the spot for a total of 18 weeks. She has yet to win a Grand Slam title.
Their competitiveness became public in 2010 after Jankovic beat Ivanovic in Madrid and mocked her. As Jankovic packed up her rackets on the court, she imitated Ivanovic's fist pump — twice.
The gesture was caught on video and made its way back to Ivanovic, who was asked about the episode and took a subtle shot at Jankovic, saying at the time: "Sport doesn't build character. It shows it."
On Friday, the No. 22-seeded Jankovic said the rivalry has been blown out of proportion by the media.
"There's no problems," the 27-year-old said. "We get along, and we come from the same country. We speak the same language and we were in the same Fed Cup team."
As for that video: "It's the past," she said. "There's nothing really personal. That's for sure."
She complimented Ivanovic on a match well played and said her only regret was that it came so early at the Australian Open.
"It's just a shame to play each other so soon in the draw," she said. "It's always better if we play each other in the finals or semifinals."
Ivanovic faces a fourth-round match against Agnieszka Radwanska, who is on a 12-match winning streak.