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Ahead of Wimbledon, which starts on Monday, Ana was featured in The Guardian newspaper in Britain today.
Ivanovic takes inspiration from Seles but gameplan from Federer
Ana Ivanovic is one of a group of Serbians who typify the globalisation of tennis.
Steve Bierley June 20, 2007 12:03 AM
In Beijing there are hundreds of children walking around in Rafael Nadal-type tennis shorts. In the women's top 20 there are seven Russians. Marcos Baghdatis has brought Cyprus to the top table of the men's game and an 18-year-old Latvian, Ernests Gulbis, beat Tim Henman in the first round of the French Open. The globalisation of tennis is an ever-accelerating phenomenon, shown this year with the emergence into the top flight of a Serbian trio, with Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic at No3 and No6 respectively in the women's game and Novak Djokovic, a week younger than Andy Murray, at No5.
All three reached the last week at Roland Garros, with the 19-year-old Ivanovic topping the other two, both semi-finalists, by making her first grand slam final. Unfortunately it was not the happiest of occasions, nerves gripping her so badly that she rarely did justice to herself in the 6-1, 6-2 defeat by Belgium's Justine Henin. Even so her smile remained a winning one, while her expectations increased significantly. Not that they have ever been anything other than high.
Last year she reached the last 16 at Wimbledon, losing to the eventual champion Amélie Mauresmo, and after her success in Paris there is every reason to suppose that she may make a run at the title this time, although the teenager is still, understandably, a little physically and mentally jaded after the high emotions of the French Open. She spent three exultant days with friends and family in Belgrade after the final before returning last week to Barcelona and the Sénchez Casal Academy, where Murray honed his game, for three days of intense training on hard courts before flying to the Netherlands for this week's pre-Wimbledon grass-court tournament.
"I want to become world No1 and win a grand slam," said Ivanovic. "Wimbledon is always very special and my game suits grass very well. I'm still learning to be a top player with all the expectation and pressure I put on myself. It's a very tough sport. We throw our bodies in all kinds of direction and it's very stressful. It takes a toll, and the better you deal with your injuries the easier it is." Ivanovic is still wearing a brace on her left ankle which she injured while winning in Berlin last month prior to Roland Garros.
Last year was something of a disappointment for the young Serb. "I'd expected to do better but I put too much pressure on myself. It takes time. Now I feel I am going the right way. Sven [Groeneveld] is helping me a lot, and the Barcelona academy. On my first year of the tour in 2005 I was like Alice in Wonderland. I didn't know what was happening. I thought I was dreaming." Not any longer.
Groeneveld, once Greg Rusedski's coach, part-owns a company that gives independent advice to Adidas clients. "I think the biggest improvement this year is her agility, her flexibility. She's retrieving a lot better and making her opponents play a lot more balls," he said. "Physically she's made a huge leap and that has allowed her to play a game that suits her better. What I try to do is to have a game plan A and B and try to find answers for her. It's basically simple. It is a quality that Roger Federer really perfects. He looks at a player and says, this guy is doing this and that really well, so I'll find an answer and maybe throw a question to him. Ana is doing that now." Unfortunately he could not help her in the French Open final because Henin is also an Adidas client.
Federer is a player Ivanovic has always looked up to and admired, while it was the nine-times major title winner Monica Seles, born in what is now Serbia, who inspired her to take up tennis. "I spoke to her in Miami. I still have so much respect for her and it was amazing to talk," Ivanovic said. Like Djokovic, a childhood friend, and Jankovic, Ivanovic had to leave home to pursue her career in Switzerland. Now the new Serbia has embraced its exiles, and a new centre is in the pipeline - another cog in the great global tennis expansion.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007.
Ana's quarter-final against world No.10 Daniela Hantuchova at the Ordina Open is scheduled as the fourth match on Centre Court on Thursday. It is expected to begin sometime after 5pm local time (11am Eastern Time). Click here to access a live stream from Holland. Alternatively, click here for live point-by-point scoring