Twelve years on from lifting her sole Grand Slam trophy at Roland Garros 2008, former World No.1 Ana Ivanovic joined Barbara Schett-Eagle last week for a special edition of the Eurosport commentator's 'Hanging out with Babsi' series of Instagram live interviews.

The Serb, who retired from the sport at the end of 2016 and is now a mother-of-two, spoke about her parenting philosophy as well as answering a range of questions about her professional career.

Memories about her greatest triumph featured heavily, of course. Ivanovic recalls being particularly nervous ahead of the tournament: due to defending champion Justine Henin's sudden retirement a fortnight before, she had taken the Belgian's place as the previous year's runner-up to be in the spotlight for events such as the draw ceremony. "But two days before [it started], I had training on Chatrier - and suddenly felt, you know what, I'm ready," Ivanovic continued. "I played so well from the get-go."

The then 20-year-old - whose team successfully kept from her the information that her semifinal against compatriot Jelena Jankovic would decide the World No.1 ranking - has little memory of the final against Dinara Safina itself, aside from championship point. "I was at the side where my family and coaches were sitting, she was serving," Ivanovic told Schett-Eagle. "She served to my backhand; I wanted to attack it but I kind of mishit it. It went down the line towards her forehand - and she stumbled and missed it... In that moment all the hard work from all those years goes through your head. It's a little bit of disbelief, but pure happiness - it's a very unique feeling and I don't know if you can replicate it."

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Ivanovic also identified three players as particularly difficult opponents: Patty Schnyder, against whom she lost her first four encounters but ultimately wound up with five wins apiece; Svetlana Kuznetsova, despite dominating the head-to-head 11-3 (eight of those matches were three-setters, and the "amazing battles" stick in Ivanovic's mind); and Karolina Pliskova, from whom she took just one set in five meetings. "It was really hard to read her serve, and she disguises her game really well," Ivanovic said of the Czech player.

The player Ivanovic would have most liked to play, however, is nine-time Grand Slam champion Monica Seles, famously a childhood inspiration to her. "We just missed each other," she said. "I met her a few times after she retired and she's very lovely, down-to-earth, shy, humble." Ivanovic's choice brought up a painful memory for Schett-Eagle, who had missed a match point in losing to Seles 3-6, 7-6(8), 6-2 in the second round of Madrid in 1996. Twenty-four years on, that point is still vivid for the Austrian - "She missed her first serve, her second serve landed on the service line, I stepped into the court to take it early - and the ball bounced really bad over my head, it was pretty much an air swing" - causing Ivanovic to empathize with her own memory of losing from 5-1, 40-0 up in the third set to Kim Clijsters in the fourth round of Miami 2011.


Perhaps surprisingly, though, that's not the match Ivanovic would choose to replay if she could. That would be the 2008 Australian Open final, which she lost 7-5, 6-3 to Maria Sharapova. "I felt so ready for that final," she recalled. "It was a tight first set, 4-4 and 30-30 with Sharapova serving. I had an easy finish on a forehand and she was far back - I thought, you know what, do a dropshot. And I did it in the net, completely shanked it. After that point I was just a little bit distressed. That point I could not let go - normally you forget, move on, play the next point, but somehow I could not forget it."

These days, Ivanovic's on-court competition is slightly easier: she plays husband Bastian Schweinsteiger, the former footballer, once or twice a week - giving him a 30-0 head start in each game first. "He thinks it's very competitive, but it's not really," laughed Ivanovic. "My forehand is still my weapon, but to be honest I don't hit full out." She still enjoys watching the WTA Tour, too, in particular those friends with whom she still keeps in touch - Angelique Kerber, Sorana Cirstea and Kirsten Flipkens.

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But with two young sons, a two-year-old and a nine-month-old, Ivanovic's focus is on motherhood these days - though also on nurturing children more widely, particularly through her role as Unicef ambassador. Her parenting philosophy takes in screen-free time and healthy nutrition, as she discusses with Schett-Eagle, but most importantly in encouraging her children to be who they really are. "As a player, I saw how many kids were forced to play tennis," she remembers. "I have a theory that our inner voice always tells us which way to go - we know our path. I want that for my kids - I don't want them to feel they have to follow anything to please anyone, even us. It could be art, it could be dance - though I don't know where they'd get that from!"

More broadly, too - particularly with regard to current events - Ivanovic is passionate about adults' duty to educate and nurture the next generation. "This time we live through is scary but also inspiring," she told Schett-Eagle. "We want to wake up in a better world and who is teaching kids this? Us. We also need to wake up!"

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