Society and Style (Vanity Fair
Ana Ivanovic Discusses Life on the Tennis Tour
by Jessica Flint
March 30, 2009, 12:02 PM
Professional tennis players might lead the ultimate jet-set life. From Sydney’s Australian Open (instead Melbourne ), in January, to New York City’s U.S. Open, which ends in September, the men and women on the tennis tour globe-trot from one fabulous locale to another, hitting tournaments in cosmopolitan cities such as Paris, London, Madrid, Berlin, Los Angeles, Beijing, Tokyo, Moscow, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Shanghai. But it’s not all fun and games. Toting a tennis bag around the planet is hard work! Just ask 21-year-old Ana Ivanovic, a former world No. 1 player, who is currently ranked seventh on the Sony Ericsson W.T.A. Tour. The six-foot-one-inch Serbian stunner swung by the Vanity Fair offices when she blew through New York City on her way to Las Vegas before heading to California’s Indian Wells tournament, and then to Miami’s Sony Ericsson Open. Herewith, she reveals what it’s like traveling for work.
VF Daily: What’s your week-to-week schedule like on the professional women’s tour?
Ana Ivanovic: It’s lots of traveling. We are constantly on planes. Obviously sometimes it can get hard because we live basically from suitcases, and it’s constant moving and changing. But I enjoy it.
Do you get to play tourist in the places you visit, or are you focused only on your tennis game?
Even though it’s pretty intense—most of what we see is the tennis club and the hotel—I try to stay a couple days extra and visit. For example, when I was in China, it was great to go to the Great Wall of China, Summer Palace, and the Forbidden City. The culture is so different, and it’s great to explore and learn more about it. I feel very fortunate to be doing what I’m doing. I love to travel and see different cultures and meet different people.
Have you been to New York City other than during the U.S. Open?
This is my first time in New York during this time of year, which is great to see because we are always here in August. It’s a completely different perception of New York. During the Open it’s pretty intense for the full two weeks, and we don’t get a chance to see much or do much. This time, for a couple days, it was fun to do some stuff because I’m more relaxed. I’m ready to take some time off and come here for a week, because there are so many things to see and explore and visit.
As a tennis spectator, I, for one, always look forward to the chicken Caesar-salad wraps at the U.S. Open. Are there things about the cities you play in that you look forward to?
In every city, I try to make myself feel [at] home. We travel so much, so we don’t get a chance to spend a lot of time at home. Every city and every tournament you play, you try to find something that makes you feel comfortable. In L.A., I always look forward to going to Sushi Fusion. And Nobu I love, so in New York or Miami or Malibu (instead Melbourne )
, I go there. I have relatives in Malibu
, so I always look forward to going to visit them. In Rome, I love going to the Vatican, and going on very nice walks in the city.
What is the most memorable court that you’ve played on?
I love the French Open. It’s the first Grand Slam that I won. Ever since I played juniors there, I loved the facilities. It’s so special for me, and I think it always will be. Then again, I love playing in Australia ... just playing Grand Slams and being on Center Court! Every Grand Slam has something special about it. It’s hard to distinguish what it is. It’s a different feel. It’s great to have an opportunity to play in different cities for different audiences.
What’s the difference between non–Grand Slam tournaments? Say, Indian Wells and Miami?
Miami is always fun. The tournament is always so busy. Indian Wells is so quiet and relaxed, and the hotel is close to the club and you just practice and go back and forth. But Miami is so hectic. So many more people, so many more things happening. It’s completely different. From Indian Wells to Miami, it’s like, Wow. I need one day to sit back and absorb all of this.
What was it like growing up in Serbia?
In Belgrade, in Serbia, I grew up playing in a swimming pool. They emptied the pool and put carpet inside. It was very hard to get on court because there were too many kids and not enough time, so we would practice in the pool. I recently visited there. The coaches that were working there when I was young were still there. Kids were still practicing. Going back brought back so many memories.
Tennis in Serbia is very popular. It’s like a trend to carry your tennis racket.
What activities are you involved in other than tennis?
I got integrated as a UNICEF National Ambassador for Serbia, for the Schools Without Violence program. Every time I’m in Serbia, I attend schools and try to spend time with the kids and encourage them to behave well, because it’s really unfortunate how much violence there is in schools. I try to take time to educate kids and try to motivate them to be good friends, and I really hope it can make a difference. I started playing tennis because of Monica Seles. I try to think that I might inspire kids to play tennis, too.