During the Australian Open last month Ana gave a thoughtful interview to leading Serbian sports website sportal.rs.
The following is a translated transcript of the interview with reporter Vuk Brajovic:
sportal.rs: Your sports team has been refreshed by a noted Serbian presence lately. Roller-coaster performances that have greatly affected your results since the days of winning Roland Garros and being WTA’s No.1 player seem to be on the way of becoming a bad memory. How important is this change to you – in the sense of communication, motivation and overall development of your game – and do you in, in retrospect, think that this could have occurred even earlier, in the light of a commendable start to the 2014 season?
Ana: It’s certainly a refreshing change and something I’m enjoying a lot. It’s no secret that we, as Serbs, have our own identity and we are understood better by our compatriots. This is clear in my team: our communication is very good. Aside from that, we are all quite young and we have a lot of fun together. It relaxes me. I think that’s the most important thing, to enjoy and to be relaxed, like I was in Australia, and it enabled me to have very good results.
I’m not sure I can say that it could have occurred earlier, because I believe that things fall into place for a reason. I didn’t consciously look for a Serbian coach, rather I was looking for the best coach for me. He happens to be Serbian and I am happy about that.
We cannot dismiss an impression that Serbia and Belgrade wants to see more of Ana Ivanovic in person, and that this feeling is just getting stronger. Is there anything that Ana would like to suggest to Belgrade – as its native daughter as well as a young woman of the world – so that it could increase its appeal and be an even more welcoming metropolis to its inhabitants as well as its guests?
Thank you. That’s lovely to hear. I already feel very proud of my hometown, for many things, not least the welcome we give to visitors from overseas. It’s funny that we were talking about coaches from inside and outside Serbia: in my career, whenever I have brought a foreign coach to Serbia, they have had an amazing time. They have been overwhelmed by the hospitality of the people. They always tell me, “You guys know how to enjoy yourself!”
I think that our city is changing and mostly for the better. When I was a kid there were some things that we could not do in our own country – we had to travel west. These days in Belgrade we have most of the shops that they have across Europe, incredible nightlife, great hotels ... And I’m sure this will continue and I hope Belgrade will become a metropolis to host world class cultural and other events.
The most unorthodox start of your remarkably successful international tennis career in crisis-stricken Serbia has been an often-retold story in tennis circles and beyond. What is your constructive message of belief to the new generations of youth growing up and trying to make their way up through life in incessantly adverse conditions?
I hope that the success of my generation is an inspiration for young people to achieve their goals. If you have talent, work hard and have belief, success will come. We did not have good facilities when we started and many things were missing, but we had huge love for the game and a dream to lift up the trophies of the biggest tournaments one day. It is only a matter of how much you want it, and you can do it!
Do you generate your motivation to improve and excel in sports from more sources than just sporting competitiveness – such as monumental scientific, artistic, cultural or societal/humanistic achievements of other historical greats? Do you have the time and interest to observe other sports, and which of their features do you observe with keen interest and strive to emulate or involve as you develop your game of tennis?
Over the years I have sometimes related some literature to tennis – either psychology, interesting life stories of extraordinary people or books by authors like Paulo Coelho, that are full of fascinating ideas and debates. But overall my motivation is quite simple: I just love to compete on the court.
I do follow other sports – I’m friends with a number of Serbian athletes, so I always look out for their results. But I can’t say that I follow any other sports very closely.
Despite being very often in the public eye, a permeating public opinion of Ana Ivanovic is that she is a bit withdrawn, and possibly even shy. In some cultures, such as the Serbian one, shyness is sometimes seen as a result of (good) upbringing in an emotional environment, a symbol of modesty. How would you comment such perceptions of yourself? In a world of increased strain, tension and aggressiveness – how would you support the call for more modesty, and what could be the reasons for shame and humility in the face of contemporary public opinion?
Thanks for your kind words. It is difficult for me to talk about myself. Over the years I learned that if you are exposed to the public eye, different people will see you differently, some will like you and some won't, and you cannot control it.
You can just be yourself, try to be a good role model, and hopefully people will see your qualities.
I have been brought up on traditional values and I believe that if you are kind to others you will get the same in return. Consequently, I believe that that aggression, dishonesty and disrespect should be discouraged and even criticised.