Times of India interview

Times of India interview

Ana was yesterday featured in the Calcutta Times, The Times of India:

Interview by Dipannita Ghosh Biswas

Tell us something about yourself, your family and educational background.
My mum, Dragana, was a lawyer but now she travels with me to every tournament. My dad, Miroslav, is an economist. I have a 15-year-old brother, Milos. He is still at school. I am very close to my family. I am still studying! I take books with me to tournaments and try and read them in the players' lounge or at the hotel. I'm quite academic and have always enjoyed learning.

You are from Serbia, a country which doesn't have too many names in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour list. How do you carry this responsibility?
I feel very proud that there is a lot of support for me in Serbia. They definitely love sports and it feels great that they support their players with a lot of enthusiasm. There are some other good Serbian players like Jankovic and Djokovic (ATP player). So, I do not feel that I am the only player that they are watching.

You have played with the Williams sisters. Did their image and rankings overpower you in any way?
I have only played Venus once. It was a very exciting match in Zurich two years ago. I lost 7-6, 7-6. I had chances to win. It was a great experience for me. I try not to focus on who my opponent is. Of course, I was nervous because it was one of my first professional tournaments. But I was not intimidated by her.

Where do you train? What are your training schedules like?
I train near Zurich in Switzerland. I spend five or six hours a day on my fitness and tennis. I do this six days a week. Usually, Sunday is my day off.

In your spare time what do you generally do?
I am not really a party person. I prefer to stay at home and spend time with my family and friends. I like to read a lot. I like history books and fiction. I also like to relax by watching DVDs. I like watching thrillers and some comedies. I recently watched Failure to Launch with Sarah Jessica Parker and enjoyed it very much. My favourite movie is The Da Vinci Code. It is my favourite book too. Occasionally, I read a book that helps with mental preparation for matches. For example, 'Warrior of the Light' by Paolo Coelho.

You have to travel a lot for the tournaments. Does any family member accompany you?
Yes, my mum comes with me. She is a great travel companion! We are extremely close. She is more like a friend and a mentor. She is also a shoulder to cry on! My dad and my brother come to most of the Grand Slams.

Your braces are much talked about...
They were removed last year! I was very happy about that!

Women in tennis are idolized. Do you think the game is more about glamour nowadays?
I definitely think that tennis is seen more as an entertainment nowadays, and a lot of that has to do with off-court things. It has probably become more glamorous. But I still think that tennis is known for what happens on the court. People remember the great matches and I think that will never change.

What are your biggest drawbacks and advantages?
I am very lucky to be playing tennis for a career. What I love most is competing on the court. It is also great to see the world. The worst thing is being away from my family and friends for so long. The traveling can get a little tiring too.

Which is the biggest win of your career?
When I beat Amelie Mauresmo at the French Open last year. I think I will always remember this match!

Do you think a need has arisen for you to shift base from Serbia to a more sporty zone?
Unfortunately, the facilities in Serbia are not very good at all. We really need better facilities in order to achieve our goals. All the good young players from Belgrade have had to go away in order to train and try to reach their potential.

Where do you see yourself two years from now?
I never like to set a time limit but I have definite goals. One day I hope to be No.1 and win all the Grand Slams. More important is that I am still improving. I am still very young and I'll only be 20 in two years - so that is still young!

To whom or what do you give the credit for your great season till date?
Actually, I wouldn't say it has been a great season. I was disappointed with the start of the year. I played some really good matches on clay, especially against Schynder (Prior to this 6-3, 6-2 win in Warsaw, Ana had never won a set in four matches against her). But then I got injured. I was pleased with my performance at Wimbledon and feel confident about the rest of the season, especially because I have a new coach (David Taylor).

When did you first realize that tennis was to be your choice?
I fell in love with tennis when I was five. Probably, I started to think about it as a career when I was around 13. That is when I first had a manager who helped with the costs. So, I could travel to international junior tournaments. I sat down with my family and we decided that I was really going to try to become a professional.

You have to play under extreme weather conditions. How do you physically attune yourself to it?
Recently, I have been training harder than ever. It is important to be in your best physical condition so that you can handle the tough weather. It is also important that you arrive early at a tournament and become used to the conditions, especially if it is a big change in time zone, for example when we play in Australia.

Do you play your best on a grass court?
I think I have a game that suits all surfaces. I like to be aggressive and I have a good serve, so that suits grass. I have also done well on clay. But if I had to choose one surface to play on, probably it would be hard courts.

How easily do you take your defeat?
I think I deal with defeat quite well. I know that I am still young and the most important thing is that I learn from every match. Of course I am disappointed, but I do not get too upset.

Is there any set ritual you follow once on court?
I bounce the ball only once before I serve and I don't walk on the lines!

Have you played against Sania Mirza or interacted with her?
I have never played against her but we played doubles together in Miami this year. It is always difficult when you start playing doubles with a new player. But I thought we played two great matches (they lost in the third round). We had good communication on the court and she's a very nice girl.

Sarah Leon, head of a model management firm, said this about you: "A slightly exotic look - and quite a strong face. She's also a little bit on the curvier side". An alternate career in modelling won't be tough for you then?
Modelling is fun, but it is definitely not an alternative career for me! Tennis is my life. I have done some modelling but I would never let it distract from my tennis. Thank you for the compliment!

When do you plan to come down to India for any tournament?
Unfortunately, no Indian tournament is on my schedule this year. But maybe, some time in the future.

How tough is it to maintain your rank?
I think it is tougher this year, because now all the players know me. Last year I was new to everyone. They didn't know much about my game, but now they do. So, it's harder. I just have to work harder and I know that if I try my best, good things will come.

Photo: Stephan Schaher