Herald (New Zealand) interview

Herald (New Zealand) interview

Ahead of the ASB Classic in Auckland, which kicks off Ana's season on 30 December, the 26-year-old gave an interview to The Herald newspaper. The following is a ful reproduction of the story:

Tennis: Ana is still holding court

By Michael Burgess

Ana Ivanovic could end up in Hollywood in the future, having already turned down a film role - but for now she is focused on regenerating her tennis career, starting at the ASB Classic next week.

The former world No1 will be a major drawcard for the Auckland tournament. Though her career has stagnated over the last few years, she remains one of the most marketable sportspeople on the planet.

Ivanovic has featured on more than 180 magazine covers around the world. She was signed up to Adidas "for life" as a 22-year-old and also endorses global giants like Rolex. She is recognised from Beijing to Budapest and has been offered acting roles in several movies, including a Hollywood production.

"Most of [the offers have been] independent movies but there was one role in a Hollywood movie that looked so exciting," Ivanovic told the Herald on Sunday. "It was a bit more than a cameo, but not a major role. It would have suited me because it involved some action."

"Still, for just a few scenes and about 10 lines of dialogue, it would have taken eight days to film. Unfortunately I wasn't able, or willing, to sacrifice my training for that long."

Hollywood is hardly a typical career path for a tennis player but Ivanovic, currently ranked No16, has an engaging personality and been regularly voted the world's "hottest" female athlete. For a long time she generated more visitors to her official website than any female sportswoman. Like Maria Sharapova and Anna Kournikova, fans and media tend to focus on her appearance as much as her sporting ability.

"It's not something I give much thought to," says Ivanovic. "I don't like to read about myself, so I'm not really aware of it until I am asked about it in an interview like this. I just go about my training and my matches, concentrating on getting better. I try to be a good role model and that's it - I am not thinking about my appearance or anyone else's, just their tennis."

Before the fame and fashion, Ivanovic was a tennis prodigy in the former Yugoslavia. Growing up throughout the NATO bombing of Belgrade, Ivanovic trained in the mornings to minimise the danger and for a period famously practised in an empty swimming pool, as no tennis courts were available.

Success came quickly. As a 17-year-old in 2005 at Roland Garros, in just her second Grand Slam tournament, she reached the quarter-finals; by the end of that year she was in the top 20. In 2007 she reached the final in Paris (beating the world No2 and No3 en route, before losing to No1 Justine Henin) and the last four at Wimbledon.

Her momentum continued in 2008 as she made another major final (the Australian Open, lost to Maria Sharapova) before winning her first Grand Slam (beating Dinara Safina) at the French Open. At the age of 20, she was suddenly the No1 player in the world.

"The best thing [about being No1] was the satisfaction of achieving my lifetime goal, my lifetime dream," reflects Ivanovic. "It was an amazing feeling. [However] when that feeling wore off, I started to feel some pressure; you do feel like you have a bullseye on your back, because everyone wants to beat the No1 player. They don't have any pressure when they play you - the pressure is all on you ... And I wasn't quite ready for it."

Ivanovic descended steadily from that high. She didn't make it past the fourth round of her next 17 Grand Slam tournaments, as she battled injuries and lost confidence. The Serbian changed coaches a number of times and dropped to world No65 in 2010.

Ivanovic started to struggle with her serve and seemed to over-analyse her game as she attempted to fix things. She was still an accomplished player but the booming forehand and powerful serve was less evident.

Last year "wasn't a great season" by her standards but there were some positives, like pushing Victoria Azarenka to the limit at the US Open.

"I competed very well against one of the world's top players and was close to winning that match," says Ivanovic. "That was an important step, because I hadn't played well against a really top player at a Grand Slam in such a long time."

After 10 years on the tour, Ivanovic still feels she can return to the top 10, or higher: "I definitely believe it - I feel my game is almost there. My motivation is as high as ever and I know I will have to work hard for it."


When glamour turns creepy

At the 2008 Wimbledon tournament, former champion Michael Stich, working for the BBC, turned a brief interview with Ana Ivanovic into a speed dating session. It made for awkward viewing. The 39-year-old German, with his uncomfortably direct manner, came across as slightly lecherous but the 20-year-old Ivanovic maintained her grace.

MS: "Do you have a boyfriend?"

AI: "No, I don't."

MS: "There will be a time when you get jewellery [as gifts], do you get a lot of love letters?"

AI: "I have had a few marriage proposals to my website but I don't take them too seriously."

MS: "I imagine - you are in the spotlight - and you are very beautiful - there must be a lot of young guys?"

AI: "[There are] one or two. It is very flattering and every girl likes to receive compliments and invitations to dinner or drinks ... but I haven't met the right guy yet."

MS: "Ok, that's good to know for the guys who really like you and would like to spend some time with you ..."

Stich concluded the 'interview' by asking what kind of pet Ivanovic would like to have.
 
 
Win 2014 ASB Classic final tickets

The Herald on Sunday, courtesy of ASB, has two tickets (Robinson stand) to the ASB Classic final to give away.

Send your name, address, telephone number and the answer to the question below to sport@hos.co.nz

How many Grand Slam finals has Ivanovic reached? Entries close 6pm, Dec 23.