Gazzetta dello Sport Sportweek interview

Gazzetta dello Sport Sportweek interview

By kind permission of the author Lorenzo Cazzaniga and photographer Ugo Zamborlini, the following is a translation of the feature interview with Ana that appeared over five pages in last weekend’s Sportweek, the magazine of leading Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. Please note that the interview took place in English and was translated into Italian, then back into English, so inaccuracies may occur

THE NEW LOLITA OF TENNIS

She’s got the looks, she’s got the talent and this 6ft star possesses a will to win that only those who have lived through a war have. At just 19, the Serbian tennis player is already close to eclipsing Miss Sharapova

At first sight, Ana Ivanovic looks to be of the same ilk as those “Made in Kournikova” Lolita types: tall, beautiful, with a steely gaze. According to stereotypes she ought to be at least haughty, if not actually arrogant. Instead, one only needs to hear her apologies for arriving ten minutes late to understand that one is dealing with a very different type of person, even if she is fully aware of the image she is supposed to portray. Indeed, judging by the photos on her official website (www.anaivanovic.com) there should be some pretty hot shots in store, and what better location for the shoot than the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Belgrade. Keeping an eye on her (and above all, us) is her father, Miroslav, a colossal man who wouldn’t look out of place in a rugby team. Talking to him, one quickly realises just how popular Ana has become in her home country: “As soon as she came close to the Top 10, everything changed. I work as a consultant for a telecommunications company, and I assure you that I’ve seen my contracts increase three-fold. All because I’m Ana Ivanovic’s Father”.

Your future seems certain. You’re pretty, sought after by sponsors. People are talking about you as the new Sharapova…
It’s strange, Sharapova doesn’t say a word to anyone, whereas I talk, smile, laugh!

But she’s won two Grand Slam titles; surely you want to do the same?
Of course that is one of my goals, as is my goal of becoming the world No.1. I know I have the right qualities, and I am more than ready to reach her level, but I certainly don’t mean to copy her.

So who is your idol?
Monica Seles: I met her last year in Toronto. It’s embarrassing to find yourself face to face with your own idol. I was just a child when I saw her play for the first time and I liked the way she fought to win. From then on I knew I wanted to be like her.

In a different vain, how do you find modelling?
It’s fun. You know, when you spend all day on the tennis courts, and in hotels and restaurants, doing something else, whatever it may be, is stimulating. And anyway, what woman doesn’t enjoy being made-up and photographed?

You’re living a celeb’s life at just 19 years old. Is there any risk that you’ll get carried away?
I live a very unusual life, but I don’t live in a dream world thinking everything is perfect. I earn well doing a job that I enjoy, but I never forget that Iraq, war and violence also exist. I know how lucky I am – I’m aware that most girls my age would want to swap places with me.

Many people are already talking about you as the next world No.1. Are you convinced of this?
I certainly win the prize for the player who has made the fastest progress, but it’s still not enough for me. Next year I want to be in the Top 10, play in the Masters and get one step closer to becoming the No.1. But do you know what my greatest goal is?

Go on…
To play the perfect match. You know, that match where you don’t mess up a single shot. Alas, I know it’s impossible!

There is a lot of pressure on you: does it bother you?
Once you have reached a certain level, pressure is inevitable, so it’s best to try and enjoy it. If you can’t, there is no point in thinking of winning Wimbledon or the French Open. At any rate, the greatest pressure I feel is that which I place myself under: I have high expectations for my career as a tennis player.

You lived through the war which affected Serbia and Kosovo in the late 90s: what do you remember of that time?
They were hard times. I wasn’t far from this hotel when the building behind us collapsed under the bombing. I was only 12, but I understood exactly what was going on. Obviously training was very difficult: we had to do it between 7 and 9 in the morning, since from midday onwards, the bombing would start and not stop until the next morning.

You even had to escape to Switzerland in order to pursue your career
I met my manager, Dan Holzmann, four years ago. My previous manager showed him my portfolio and he decided to help me. He was an important businessman and recognized that I had talent and the potential to become famous. He works in Basel, so naturally we moved to Switzerland. It’s a peaceful life over there – Federer lives there and nobody ever bothers him, so imagine how it is for me!

In Belgrade, on the other hand, can you still go out without being assailed by fans?
Certainly I’m well known, you could say that, and some fans are even rather affectionate. Some players say that they don’t like the attention but that’s not true of me, I love it, it’s wonderful to have fans. Nonetheless, for me, the best part is being a role model for young girls who have just started playing tennis.

What is the atmosphere like on the female circuit?
There is a lot of rivalry. They are always scrutinising your clothes, your appearance. There is a lot of jealousy, and I don’t think that there is any true friendship within the circuit. I try to look my best, but let’s not exaggerate, I’m not like those players who make themselves up before going on court. It always makes me wonder, ‘do you know that you’re about to sweat heavily, and all that make-up will run?’

You ended the season near the Top 10: what have you learned from your first year playing in the big league?
That you have to search for perfection even though it doesn’t exist. I didn’t have a coach for a few months which was a learning curve. Many players have a boyfriend as a coach, but I prefer to do it on my own. I’ve matured and I’m ready to aim high.

So have you found ‘the one’?
I already share many aspects of my life with people I don’t know, so let’s at least leave that part secret.

So there is someone! I’ve been told he might be a tennis player…
Dad (she calls to her father to end the interview)!

Personal Details:

Ana Ivanovic was born in Belgrade on 6th November 1987. She is 1m 83cm tall and weighs 73kg. During her career she has won two Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournaments, one in Canberra in 2005, the other in Montreal this year. She reached the finals of the junior Wimbledon tournament in 2004 and the quarterfinals of the 2005 Roland Garros. She began playing when she was five and her current trainer is the Australian David Taylor. She is very superstitious: she only bounces the ball once before serving and won’t walk on the lines of the court. She was chosen as "Miss Fed Cup 2006 for the Euro/Africa Zone" and has one brother (Milos, 15) who plays basketball.