Pattaya tournament feature

Pattaya tournament feature

The following is a reproduction of a feature that will be published in the tournament programme of the PTT Pattaya Open next week:

The Smiling Serb Is Back!
by Barry Wood

It’s a warm welcome back to the PTT Pattaya Open for the smiling Serb, Ana Ivanovic, who has some unfinished business to attend to here.

On her last visit two years ago she was upset in the quarter-finals by Roberta Vinci, but this year she is back as a potential champion after a fine 2012 season. That culminated in an appearance in the Fed Cup final during which she claimed an impressive victory over former world number two and 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Ana’s success has earned her friends in high places. The Serbian President even attended her 20th birthday party. He wasn’t able to attend in later years because in 2010 and 2011 she was busy celebrating her birthday in Bali by winning the Tournament of Champions. Yes, twice.

She has been named UNICEF National Ambassador to Serbia specialising in child safety in schools, and she was even nominated for the US Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award. She’s received four WTA Awards, twice for Most Improved Player, the Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award and for Humanitarian of the Year. Other awards include the International Sports Press Association's Women's Tennis Player of the Year and the International Tennis Writer's Association Ambassador of the Year.

Oh, and she won the French Open and has reigned as the world number one. Respect!

Ana enjoyed an excellent 2012 season, despite a couple of injury setbacks. The first came at Indian Wells in March where she reached the semi-finals before having to retire against Maria Sharapova with a left hip injury. Still, she recovered quickly enough to reach the fourth round at her next tournament in Miami before falling to Venus Williams.

Another hip injury, this time on the right side, forced her to miss Eastbourne, but again she recovered quickly to enjoy a fine run to the fourth round at Wimbledon before going down to world number two Victoria Azarenka. Another highlight was her march to the quarter-finals of the US Open where she ran into eventual champion Serena Williams. And, of course, she was proud to represent her country not only in the Fed Cup final but at the Olympics in London.

That was then. Now she’s been looking forward to her return to Pattaya.

“It’s a peaceful tournament and a very relaxing place to be,” she said. “It’s hard to think of a more beautiful setting on the Tour, right by the ocean. I love the beach, so it is perfect for me. I also love the Thai culture and the manner of the Thai people – they are some of the kindest and most friendly people I have met.”

It wasn’t all tennis when she was here before, as like several other players she grabbed the opportunity to speed across the waves below the tournament site at the luxurious Dusit Resort.

“I did a few things, to explore the surroundings. I had a walk towards the centre of the town and I stopped at a hotel with a great view of the city, and drank one cocktail there! My friend Tamira Paszek and I also rented jet-skis one day, which was a lot of fun.

“I enjoyed my time there two years ago but I didn’t do myself justice on the court. I want to put that right this time and challenge for the title. Scheduling-wise it’s perfect for a European player such as myself, as we are halfway between (the Australian Open in) Melbourne and home.

“I feel that I have a lot more structure in place now (in my game). The first time I played in Pattaya I actually didn’t have a coach, and I stopped working with my fitness trainer soon after. Now I have Nigel Sears as my coach and we work well together. I’ve been moving up the rankings and I’m feeling much more confident than I did back then.”