Re: ~Ana's articles~
Ana Revealed: Behind The Scenes With The Hottest New Face In Tennis
By: Joel Drucker, Tennis Week
Ana Ivanovic is quickly emerging as the hottest woman on the tour — both off court and on. Now TennisWeek.com takes you behind the scenes for an intimate look at the Serbian superstar. The following feature is the cover story from the latest issue of Tennis Week Magazine.
"That’s just mean," comes the cry from Ana Ivanovic’s practice partner, Marcin Rozpedski, a 32-year-old local teaching pro. On practice court D at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, site of the Pacific Life Open, Ivanovic has just thrown up a lob volley, forcing Rozpedski to sprint back to the baseline.
Ivanovic smiles, then shuffles back to field Rozpedski’s defensive lob. She strikes an overhead into a corner. Rozpedski tumbles after it to no avail. "You got me, you got me good," he says.
Though her brown shorts and white shirt make her look as lithe and unfettered as an undergraduate on spring break, Ivanovic’s practice is more of a study hall. Her head cocooned by her perpetual visor, she crisply drives a two-handed backhand down the line. Rozpedski replies with a crosscourt forehand, at which point the two exchange rolling topspin forehands.
Upon missing an easy backhand, Ivanovic exclaims, "Oh no." When she steps in and drives a forehand for a winner, she and her coach, Sven Groeneveld, lightly tap knuckles. The clean power Ivanovic consistently generates reveal strokes that were honed as a child in a court built at the bottom of an abandoned swimming pool — clearly a spin-free zone. Most striking is Ivanovic’s exemplary posture.
One of the most-respected coaches in tennis, Groeneveld is kindly but alert, experienced enough to view his charge as a long-term project. As Groeneveld sees it, Ivanovic is exceptionally "fresh," a sparkling gem two to three years from playing her best tennis.
On the side of the court sits Ivanovic’s mother, Dragana, with her left fist under her chin, paying intermittent attention to her daughter’s tennis while staring into the inviting blue sky of the desert. Dragana politely declines to be interviewed. Her thick, frosted hair and stylish wardrobe conjure up sphinx-like elegance and the attendant mystery surrounding a woman who has practiced law in Eastern Europe. It’s not likely she’ll ever be one of these parents wearing a warm-up suit.
Groeneveld and Dragana are the two leads in Ivanovic’s team, a group that’s a model for how a player positions herself for success. There’s also physical trainer Scott Byrnes, who over the last winter improved Ivanovic’s fitness and movement.
It’s a harmonious coterie, one that during the Pacific Life Open passed time at a local bookstore. Says the perpetually giggly Ivanovic, "You pick some books, you put it under your arm. You see it and just read and exchange our thoughts. Oh, is that book good? The problem is that every time I go there I want to buy so many books, but then I can't carry them. I always have overweight when I'm traveling, so I really have to be selective."
Away from the tranquility of bookstores, Ivanovic favors amusement parks. She’s particularly smitten with rollercoasters, at one venue going on six rides in two hours, a pace that left the coach who preceded Groeneveld in the dust. Jokes Ivanovic, “he couldn’t keep up with me.”
These are Ivanovic’s days of innocence and wonder, the grand period of ascent when she’s good and young enough to make a charge for the top, but unsullied by the painful losses and world-weariness that can turn a player sour. The 20-year-old Ivanovic is tennis’ current "It" girl, a silky smooth locus of attention for those who admire her not just her tennis, but also her youthful looks and possibilities as athlete, icon, fashion doll.
Says Tracy Austin, who won the U.S. Open at 16, "The key is organization, in putting things in capsules so that you can focus on the right things at the right times. She’s managing it very well."
But for all the pieces in place that control Ivanovic’s business, the biggest variable is the business of winning matches. It’s now evening at Indian Wells. Ivanovic’s round of 16 match has been reassigned to Stadium Three, a tight court holding 3,000 people. The opponent, Francesca Schiavone, is crafty, combining spin, power, guile and grit — light years removed from the clean-hitting baseliners that comprise the majority of Sony Ericsson WTA Tour players. It won’t be an easy match.
Ivanovic looks at her posse after just about every point. She loses her serve three times in a row, drops the first set 6-2 and in the second is serving at 1-2, 30-40 — and then ropes a backhand down the line, eventually winning the game.
"Her timing when it comes to hitting the ball was always very good," says Groeneveld. "I’m helping educate her, helping her become a true professional, a true student of the game."
Schiavone continues to confound Ivanovic with her variety. Far more than the big occasions on the show courts, these are the kind of knife fights that pose great implications for a competitor’s confidence — just another score in the newspapers, but a rite of passage a player will never forget. As Groeneveld no doubt repeatedly tells Ivanovic, it’s the ability to grub it out that makes a champion. Grappling with Schiavone is light years removed from any photo shoot, fashion show or any of the other glitzy opportunities that tumble into Team Ivanovic’s office.
She’s laboring heavily, striking balls long and into the net, misfiring on serves, tentative on returns. As Ivanovic prepares to serve at 4-5, Dragana exits. But Ivanovic holds for 5-all and takes the second set 7-5. Dragana returns. Up in the third, past 10:00 p.m., she holds a point for 3-1, gives her trademark clenched near-the-chest fist pump and says "This one!" Groeneveld chimes in, "Not this one — every one, every point!" Having picked up the pace and discouraged Schiavone, Ivanovic wins the third, 6-2.
Over the next five days she wins three more matches without the loss of the set to take the title, including her fifth win in six tries versus her fellow Serb, Jelena Jankovic, in the semis; and a forceful victory over formidable Svetlana Kuznetsova in the finals.
Watching TV at the age of five, Ivanovic saw an image of Monica Seles hitting tennis balls and the phone number of a local instructor. She wrote down the number, demanded tennis lessons and was soon playing as often as possible.
But there were other factors intruding on her life. When Ivanovic was eleven years old, NATO commenced its bombing raids on Belgrade. Says Ivanovic, "But then by the time you got used to it, you realized that they are not bombing just everything, only certain buildings. So after a month, I started practicing, and that was good because, during the practice you could not think about what was happening, you were getting into doing something else."
At 15, Ivanovic so greatly impressed Daniel Holzmann, a Switzerland-based entrepreneur, that he relocated her to Switzerland for more training. Holzmann also provided Ivanovic with hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorship money. The first time Holzmann saw her play a match, though, Ivanovic lost — and then spent four hours in the locker room crying in fear that Holzmann would drop her. He didn’t, and remains Ivanovic’s manager. She’s particularly proud that she has repaid every nickel Holzmann invested in her. "You wonder sometimes if she doesn’t want it too much," says Groeneveld.
A run to the 2004 Junior Wimbledon final, followed later that fall by a 7-6, 7-6 loss to Venus Williams in Zurich, rapidly earned Ivanovic raves. By the end of 2004, she’d soared 608 spots up the rankings, from 705 to 97. A year later, she’d cracked the top 20.
But it wasn’t just laser-sharp groundstrokes that raised Ivanovic’s profile. The 6-foot-1 Serb is a heartthrob, radiating a lucid, subdued sensuality that is preternatural and captivating without being too threatening. Though she’s attended her share of lively player parties and posed for many a photo spread, Ivanovic is determined to stay grounded.
During Indian Wells, Ivanovic was reading several books about the prominent psychologist, Sigmund Freud. Speaking one night after a match, she said, "Childhood has effect in forming the personality and how much it's important that you have actually nice control, parents, they can show you what's right, what's wrong, you can build your morals and personality of it. So now looking back, my parents did a great job."
As she heads into this year’s majors at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, having reached the finals last year in Paris and this past January at the Australian Open and risen to a ranking of number two in the world, Ivanovic knows the time to step up is nearing. "As long as I didn't believe it inside it was impossible for me to [win Grand Slams]," she says. "But now slowly I believe that I can do it."
For now, win or lose, Ivanovic will retain a large following. One night at Indian Wells, a group of eight topless teenage boys sat in the stands in rapture not just at her forehand. All were students at the Charlie Hustle Tennis Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For $5, the group had bought a can of paint and adorned themselves with one of the letters of Ivanovic’s last name. The ringleader, Sam Martin, had an "N" emblazoned across his chest and three photos of her on his cell phone. At the next changeover, Sam led his entire squad in a cheer, "Ana, Ana, Ana!"
Getting out of her chair, hearing the chant, Ivanovic looked up for barely a second, then rapidly put her head down.
Another night she left the court mobbed like a rock star, fans thrusting Sharpie pens in front of her for autographs, others congratulating her for winning, another asking for her visor — which she promptly handed over.
Freed at last from the clutches of the crowd, Ivanovic headed to the locker room. As she made her way through the desert evening, Ivanovic was asked, "What would Freud make of all that?"
"I don’t know, I don’t know," she said, bursting into another bout of laughter. "I have to study more."
and I'm not even fan of Ana Ivanovic... just an objective observer who realize how perfect she is
AMAZING BELGRADE MIRACLE: In just three years (2008-2011) 5 different players born in same city reach world #1 in rankings and several GS titles and finals (WTA singles: Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, ATP singles: Novak Djokovic, ATP doubles: Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor... with notable performances of Bojana Jovanovski, Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki which is also all three born in Belgrade)