“We Serbs are very emotional.”
From an interview with Vojin Veličković in the print edition of Serbian daily Sportski Žurnal (17 February 2015, page 24). An online preview is available here.
You’ve said a few times that Serbian coaches deserve a lot of credit for your success in the last year and a half. Why is that?
“I’m a very emotional player—I play with my heart. Some wins as well as some losses affect me more powerfully than they should, and it’s very helpful to have a team of people around me who understand me and the emotions I’m going through—who know what’s going on. Maybe foreign coaches can’t quite get that, but it helps you get through a match if you have a compatriot by your side. It’s a huge difference when a coach from Serbia comes down to the court to give me advice.”
The result of these collaborations is her world ranking, which has been improving for over a year. When she stopped working with Nigel Sears after Wimbledon 2013, she was number 18 on the WTA list. Now, after a year with Nemanja Kontić and almost eight months with Dejan Petrović, she is in the sixth position (and was even #5).
“I’ve wanted to get back into the Top 10 for a long time. Last year, I finally coordinated a few details and succeeded. I played a lot of matches, did some things differently, and for the first time had a Serbian team around me. That helped: I was more relaxed and they removed some of the pressure from me. It was truly a good year, at the end of which I felt I was much improved.”
Elaborating on what having a Serbian team means to her, Ivanović notes, “Every country has its own mentality and it’s important to have someone next to you who understands and fits in with it. That kind of support is a huge help. We Serbs are very emotional and we really love to compete.”
Since last summer, she’s been working with Dejan Petrović, an expert who, over the course of his career, has united the most important functions in Serbian tennis. He was captain of the Davis Cup team, coach to Novak Djoković and Jelena Janković, and now to Ana Ivanović.
“Working with him means a lot to me—we have great cooperation and I really feel that, as time passes, we understand each other better and he can help me much more. Of course, Zlatko Novković and Dule Mitrović, as part of my team, also help me a lot.”
Since 2008, when she won Roland Garros and was number one, Ana has had many more disappointments than the anticipated celebrations. She says she’s learned a lesson.
“It takes time to get used to failures. When I started, defeats hit me hard, but I realized that we play every week. I always want to give the maximum, but that’s simply not always possible. Last year, it went much better for me at the smaller than the biggest tournaments, but I really want to fix that—I want to be the best at the most important competitions...”
Which Ana do you like better as a player—present Ana or Ana back in 2008 when you were number 1?
“I like present Ana better. Through various experiences, you learn a lot about yourself, you become more mature in a lot of ways, and you start to understand what’s really important and what isn’t. I achieved a lot when I was still very young. Although I was very lucky to have that kind of opportunity back then, I feel I’m more complete as a person now. And I still believe I can win the biggest titles, which motivates me.”
What separates the more from the less important in tennis?
“Over the years, I’ve learned that the most important thing is today and this week; next week is something different, and the week after that likewise something else. That is something you have to understand—to narrow the focus to whatever is the priority. Sometimes, I look forward too much, toward the outcome.
Of course, the most important things in life are you and your family; but when it comes to tennis, it is today and this week.”
What are your goals in 2015?
“I’d like to be part of WTA finals again and to end this year in the Top 5. I sincerely think that I can achieve both things. I work really hard and I strongly believe that I can go on to do great things in the future. Winning Grand Slam titles is my goal, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I want to be able to give my maximum effort for as long as I can.”
What do you need to improve in order to be Top 5 player again?
“Even though my game is always progressing, there are always details that need working on. My serve can be a much more forceful weapon and I’ll pay more attention to it this year.”
How is your toe?
“It’s still sore, I’m still in therapy, and I’m taking anti-inflammatory medications. I hope that it’s going to be 100% fine in one to two weeks. I only regret that I didn’t go straight to the doctor’s—he later told me that I shouldn’t have played that match [the first round at the Australian Open] at all.”
How do you feel about the Fed Cup tie against Paraguay?
“I’d really love to play. With all my heart, I congratulate coach Ječmenica and the girls on a great result. I hope I’ll be able to join them in April. We have a big chance of getting back into the World Group, where we belong. I’ll give my best to be there and support the team.
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