French Open Contenders: Ivanovic
Published May 21, 2014 12:15
It seemed so sudden, so effortless - but clearly she spent countless hours on the practice courts and in the gym to make it happen. Since the beginning of the year Ana Ivanovic has been one of the hottest players on the tour, and she's stepping it up even more during the clay court season - and with a French Open title under her belt already, how can she be overlooked for this year's French Open?
Since back-to-back Top 5 seasons in 2007 and 2008, during which she not only won her first Grand Slam title but also reached her other two Grand Slam finals, Ivanovic had been hovering on the periphery of the upper echelon, finishing every year from 2009 to 2013 between No.13 and No.22.
After some very impressive results on hardcourts to start the year - two WTA titles at Auckland and Monterrey, plus beating Serena Williams en route to the Australian Open quarterfinals - Ivanovic took it to another level as soon as the tour switched to clay, winning 11 of 14 matches in reaching the finals of Stuttgart, the quarterfinals of Madrid and the semifinals of Rome. Even more impressive were some of her wins though - particularly beating the very in-form Maria Sharapova in straight sets in Rome.
No one has more match wins on the year, few have more past success at Roland Garros, and even fewer have more momentum going into the French this year. Ivanovic is clearly a major contender.
How has Ivanovic evolved since winning the French Open in 2008 and her first stint at No.1?
"It's a whole other life," she said during her run in Madrid. "I've definitely changed a lot over the last few years. A lot of experiences - good and bad - make you a certain person, a stronger person. Right now I just feel so at peace and happy with my game, with my team, and everything. I just want to show everyone the tennis that I can play. I'm happy to be competing and happy to be on the court.
"The level my game is at now, you cannot compare it to back then, because the level of women's tennis is different. Technology is so much more advanced, the players are much stronger, and the depth is much better. And my game is more complete - but I have to prove it on the big stage."
And her favorite big stage is Court Philippe Chatrier, where she had her defining moment in 2008.
"I look forward to the French Open very much every year," she said. "It has always been such a special place for me and I really hope I can perform well. But I'll be focusing on one match at a time - every opponent can be dangerous, and you really need to put your attention from one match to another."