Sport24.com interview

Sport24.com interview

The following is a transcript of Ana's interview with leading French sports website Sport24.com, which took place during the Proximus Diamond Games in Antwerp:

Interview by Fabrice Turmel

I’d like to start at the beginning. I know you must have told this story so many times but I’d like you to tell us how it all started and how you lived your first steps and years in tennis back in your home country for the people who don’t know you well in France.
It was when I was five years old. I was watching Monica Seles playing on the television back home in Belgrade. During the commercial there was an advert for tennis center. It looked like a lot of fun so I remembered the number and wrote it down. I begged my mum to take me there and after maybe one month I had my first lesson. I really fell in love with the game straightaway. My father gave me a racket for my next birthday and that is how it all began for me!

In difficult times in life and therefore having influences on your tennis, are there any particular moments of the past you think of to give you courage? Or maybe just something that somebody would have told you or something you saw that shocked you and that you go back to to help you? Maybe flashing through your head as well during matches when you’re in trouble?
Growing up in Belgrade during the bombings wasn’t easy. It made training difficult and it taught me a lot, like how you must be strong and try and stay positive even when things aren’t going so well.

I always remember the advice of my family, they are the most important people in the world for me. I also take inspirations from some books. I love reading. I just read “Slaying the Dragon” by athlete Michael Johnson and I could relate many things to tennis. Also this book “Warrior of the Light” by Paulo Coelho helped me with mental preparation for matches.

In the same way, I wondered who are the people that inspire you to be a better person and a better tennis player? Personally they are people living around me but also other people like actors who had an inspirational role in a movie, is it the same for you?
The people I admire the most are my family. The support they give me is unbelievable. I have a great team around me who help and I am very grateful to them. I can’t really say I have any idols, although when I was little I always looked up to Monica Seles and other players like Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis. So it was strange that now I play against Martina!

What’s your view on your beginning of the season? Are you happy about your preparation leading to 2007?
Preparation period was quite good. I went early to Australia to train in Sydney. My fitness coach Scott arranged interesting training activities for me. I tried snorkelling and surfing. I didn’t so much like snorkelling but surfing was a lot of fun. But very difficult. I played some good matches and some not so good. Then I split with my coach and I feel a lot happier about my tennis. I was very pleased with my game in Tokyo.

Serena Williams won the Australian Open by thrashing Maria Sharapova in the final, what’s your opinion on this?
She’s an unbelievable player. She hits the ball harder than anyone and definitely deserved to win this tournament.

Do you feel capable of winning a grand slam yourself? You just left your coach David Taylor cause your relationship was not ideal off the court, there was maybe a part of your game which is not entirely satisfying you even though you are already 16th in the world that pushed you to this decision? And what characteristics you are looking for to choose your new coach?
I definitely believe I can win a Grand Slam. Without belief there is no point in being a professional. My goal is to win all of the Grand Slams but I don’t know when. I am still very young. I know that at the moment my game isn’t even close to where I want it to be and it will take time. There are so many areas I need to improve. So right now I am not really thinking about this, I am concentrating on improving. If I improve the results will come automatically.

I haven’t really thought about a new coach yet. At the moment it’s important for me to just relax and enjoy my tennis. This is what I did in Tokyo and it worked really well. Actually I had more fun on my own. I really enjoy deciding tactics by myself and thinking about the problems for myself.

But I will start thinking more about a new coach soon. For the moment Sven Groeneveld, who works for adidas, is helping me on a temporary basis. He is with me in Antwerp.

Talking about your game, some specialists argued you were sometimes going for very ambitious shots instead of maybe playing a defensive shot to allow you to stay in the rally. Do you agree? Is it that you have always trained to hit the ball as hard as you could or is it your philosophy to keep a spectacular game, or is it just a part of your game you are trying to improve?
I have always been a very aggressive player. Sometimes I make the wrong decisions. I definitely need to improve on this side of the game but I believe in my ability. If I played those shots it’s because I believed I could make them.

Your official site is one of the best around (www.anaivanovic.com), you always look very classy, how important is your image and keeping your feminine side even tough you are a sport pro?
Thanks! It’s important for me to stay feminine but it’s not something I have to put any effort into. I just want to be myself. The website is a great way to stay in touch with the fans. They are very important – we could not play tennis professionally without them!

Might sound like a weird questions but the fact of having so much success with men and having so much more media commitment than players classified above you in the ranking, you might meet people criticizing this or seeing you as a model more than a tennis player even though you are one of the proven best. Have you got this feeling, is it annoying you, how are you dealing with it?
I never thought about this until someone asked me about it last year. It would be crazy to think about me as model and not a tennis player. I train six hours a day, six days a week. Last year I think I only did maybe four of five photoshoots in whole year. So it’s hard to see why people could think of me as model. They definitely aren’t looking at the facts if they think this.

Tennis is what I love doing. I enjoy photoshoots and other things because they are a nice change. I am in my tennis clothes all day so it’s always nice to be able to dress up but I would never do anything that hurts my training. Everything is in good balance.

My last question is obviously about your aims and hopes for 2007. I guess you would like to enter the Top 10, which looks like the next big step, but ranking apart, what would you like to achieve or improve?
I have goal to qualify for Masters. It’s gonna be tough but I think I can achieve this. I see my career almost like a map. There are many places I must go through to achieve my goals. I’m sure there will be many tough experiences but the important thing is that I learn from each one. 2007 is an important year and I am going to do my best to take my opportunities.

Photo: Stephanie Morel