x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ana Ivanovic has winning charms

Ana Ivanovic perhaps will never again be worl No 1 again, but she still seems to have the physical tools to contend for a second major championship following her success at the Tournament of Champions in Bali.

While in Bali last week for the final event on the 2011 WTA schedule, Ana Ivanovic baked chocolate-chip cookies at a Unicef charity event.

In a video clip posted by the WTA website, she told the camera that she had added personal touches to the recipe, including M&M's, almonds and vanilla-bean extract.

The moment, which included Roberta Vinci, was so charming, and seemed to produce such simple joy for viewers, as well as Ivanovic, that it reinforced the notion that tennis is a better game with the charismatic Serb playing a major role in it.

Thus, it was felicitous that a few days later Ivanovic won a tournament for the first time since her 2010 visit to Bali, overwhelming Anabel Medina Garrigues in the final.

The victory came on her 24th birthday, which also served as a reminder that while Ivanovic seems a spent force in the minds of many tennis aficionados, she certainly is far from decrepit.

The story of her career arc is a familiar one: a rocket-fuelled rise to world No 1, at the age of 20, after winning the French Open in June 2008, followed by one of the most comprehensive meltdowns by an elite player in tennis history.

Pundits spent a couple of years puzzling over her struggles, usually returning to imprecise themes such as "lack of confidence" before, eventually, moving on to more pertinent topics.

Since the 2008 French Open, which was Ivanovic's third grand slam final in 53 weeks, she has not survived the fourth round in 14 slams, four times going out in the first round.

Her victory in Bali, only her third since the 2008 French Open, allowed her to consider better times ahead, even as her ranking rose to No 22 from 26.

"I feel great, very unexpectedly, actually," she said. "I think next year is going to be big, and I really want … to play tournaments that I'm ready for and really go and take my chances because, I think, especially the first half of the year, I have nothing to defend and I can take my opportunities and hopefully keep the level and break the top 10.

"That would be the first step, first goal, and then take it from there."

One aspect of her game that can be improved: a once-dominant serve, delivered with all the leverage of a woman standing an inch above 6ft; her accuracy has been erratic for most of three years.

Ivanovic perhaps will never again be No 1, but she still seems to have the physical tools to contend for a second major championship.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae


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