Feature: Interview with Dragana (Part Three)

Feature: Interview with Dragana (Part Three)

In the final instalment of our three-part interview with Ana’s mother, Dragana, we talk to her about her role on match days and what Ana is like in private.

Click here for Part One.
Click here for Part Two.

Pete Sampras’ parents were too nervous to watch their son play live, while Maria Sharapova’s father behaves like a manic football fan when courtside. Dragana Ivanovic, on the other hand, is markedly unemotional while watching Ana’s matches, on the outside at least.

“During the match I am nervous, I cannot be calm,” she says. “But I learn to control myself and I’m used to this. So many years and so many matches, so in time you learn how to deal with this. She’s playing always next week, another match, so for me it’s not as big stress as people might think. Also, I believe that Ana needs support during the match, not a nervous reaction from people who are close to her.

“The most exciting moments are when you see the most important moment in the match. It can be sometimes the beginning of the set. I’ve learned to recognise this moment. That’s when I’m more nervous.”

Dragana has no special way of coping with her nerves, rather the sheer volume of matches Ana has played, and will play during her career, means that she has a sensible outlook. Following a similar routine on match days probably helps, though Dragana is not a superstitious person.

“I try to avoid superstitions. Ana has her rituals and habits before matches and I am following that. Before her match she always has a talk with her coach, referring to tactical preparation for the particular opponent. After that, she needs time to relax in a calm atmosphere, and usually she is alone listening to the music she likes.

“Then five minutes before the match we always see each other. I kiss her and wish her luck.

“After the match I normally don’t see her for some time because she has to do interviews. But as soon as possible I see her, we talk a bit about the match and then try to relax.”

Considering the single-mindedness that professional tennis players must assume, it is perhaps surprising that at home, Ana and Dragana do not tend to discuss the sport much. “We don’t talk a lot about tennis,” says Dragana.

“Of course, we are discussing some situations, talking about mental part of the game, about how she feels during the match, but the technical part I leave to the coach. I know that after the match they analyse the game, so I think it would be too much if I started talking about it as well."

They may not talk tennis much at home, but that does not mean that Ana doesn’t show her competitive spirit when away from the tennis court. “She’s very determined,” says Dragana, when asked to describe Ana.

“She’s ambitious. She's very, very competitive: not just in tennis but in life. For her everything is winning or losing. You can play cards with her and if she is losing, she will kick you – jokingly of course!

“As a person she is not easy to get close to. She is quite shy.”

Unsurprisingly, Dragana speaks with great pride about Ana and her achievements. “It’s a beautiful feeling for the parents to have a successful child,” says Dragana, who takes photographs of Ana in action from time to time.

“We are proud. But there is something else: when we see her happy, with a smile on her face, no matter losing or winning, ranking, this or that, as long as we see her really enjoying herself – that’s everything for us.”

By Gavin Versi