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Jankovic battles on to help Serbia beat France

Perth, Dec 2: Jelena Jankovic battled through a leg injury at the Hopman Cup on Wednesday to give Serbia a 2-1 victory over France, putting them on course for a place in the final.

France took an early lead when Jelena Jankovic withdrew after only a game and a half of her match with Tatiana Golovin because of an injury to her right leg. Novak Djokovic then pulled top seeds Serbia level with a confident 6-3 6-3 victory over Arnaud Clement. After a scan revealed that Jankovic had not torn a muscle, she decided to risk it by playing the deciding mixed doubles, which she and Djokovic won 5-7 6-4 10-4 to seal victory in the Group A clash.

"I stretched to hit a backhand I think and went back to push off to the next side and that's where I felt really sharp pain," Jankovic said. "It was like somebody put a knife in my glute.

"It's a strain. It was really, really painful. I thought I had torn a muscle or something. I have to be ready for (the Australian Open) and I don't want to risk any kind of injury."

Djokovic said Jankovic had played a big part in their victory.

"She played a great match and if it wasn't for good hands and good feeling from my experienced partner, I don't think we would have won," he said.

Jankovic received treatment from the physiotherapist after the first game of her match with Golovin and though she tried to play on, she was forced to withdraw two points later.

The 20-year-old Djokovic, who will be one of the favourites for the title at the Australian Open later this month, cruised to victory over Clement.

"Today I was performing really well," he told reporters. "I was keeping my focus throughout the match, trying to be in control, which I did.

"I think what decided our match today was my serve. I think it was like never before."

Though Jankovic's movement was clearly restricted, the Serbian pair broke to lead 3-2 and had a point for 4-2, but France hit back and snatched the set with another break in the 12th game.

Djokovic and Jankovic then stormed to a 3-0 lead in the second set and held on to level the match, before romping through the match tiebreak 10-4.

Golovin said it had been hard for herself and Clement to maintain their focus.

"It's impossible to play because she (Jankovic) was limping, then she was hitting aces, so it's so tough to keep your concentration," she said.

Clement said he was too tentative.

"It's tough for the man in mixed doubles, especially when the girl is injured... Maybe I am too good a guy."

Jankovic said she will undergo more treatment on Thursday before deciding whether to play against Argentina in their final Group A match on Thursday.

Victory for Serbia will ensure them top spot in Group A and send them through to Friday's final of the eight-nation mixed team event.

If Argentina beat Serbia, then they, Serbia and France could still qualify for the final.

Later on Wednesday, Argentina were due to play Taiwan.

One India

Story first published: Wednesday, January 2, 2008, 15:48 [IST]
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