Ana Ivanovic won the Upper Austria Ladies Linz in 2008 and 2010. In 2013, she reached the finals against Angelique Kerber. The 36-year-old from Serbia once ranked No.1, has been a longtime fan favorite in Linz. Now she returns as a guest of honor for final’s weekend to the world’s second oldest WTA indoor tournament.

In an interview, the 2008 French Open champion talks about her special Linz memories, the upgrade of the tournament, the comebacks of the tennis moms, owning a house in Austria with her husband Bastian Schweinsteiger, a German soccer World Cup winner and their three sons.

What are your most special memories of the Linz tournament? 

Ivanovic: “My most special memories in Linz have to be, of course, winning the title. One funny moment I remember from the final against Vera Zvonareva, there was a guy painting us during the match and then the winner got the painting. I actually still have the painting in my house! It was a very cool and special memory. The players’ parties were also always great.” 

The Upper Austria Ladies Linz is a WTA 500 now. Why does the tournament deserve an upgrade to a WTA 500 status? What can a city like Linz and a region like Upper Austria benefit from a tournament like this?

Ivanovic: “Linz has such a strong history and top players have always loved playing there. The tournament does a great job of hosting all of the players and making everyone feel welcome, so I think they are very deserving of the 500-level status.” 

What are the main issues that are necessary for more gender equality in sports ? What’s important in your opinion for the work of the WTA in the future? 

Ivanovic: “Despite having equal prize money at the largest events, there is still a significant pay gap between women’s and men’s tennis. The biggest issue is that beyond just tennis, there exists this pay gap across all sports and industries. I believe this will only fully correct itself once men accept and vouch for a woman’s right to be paid equally.”  

When you currently see the many comebacks of tennis moms, do you ever think about a comeback? 

Ivanovic: “To be honest I can’t imagine coming back right now. Life with three kids is very demanding and busy, but it’s really nice to see other moms coming back. It’s great because it shows what women are capable of. Being a professional athlete is so intense between all of the travel and training, so it’s amazing to see women tackle it all along with motherhood. Becoming a mom gives you a different perspective on things and makes you more calm and more mature, so those moms on tour have that to their advantage.” 

On Twitter we recently saw pictures of you on a tennis court, how are you in shape these days? And what are your secrets to stay fit and healthy? 

Ivanovic: “Growing up as an athlete, I’ve always prioritized health and wellness and I’ve tried to keep that up even with kids. I miss playing more tennis, but I try to go to the gym two to three times a week, and I sometimes still play with my husband. This year I’m hoping to play more competitively.”

How can you handle all your business activities with three kids?  

Ivanovic: “As hard as it is to balance everything, I love it because it allows me to have my own identity and passion projects outside of being a mom. I’ve always loved to work, and I’m grateful that I get to keep that side of myself.”

You and your family have a house in Austria, what do you like about living in Austria? 

Ivanovic: “We love to spend time in Austria. The people are super friendly and it’s easy living. The skiing is so much fun for the entire family, and we’re all huge fans of the Kaiserschmarrn. It may not be the healthiest food, but we’re burning off the calories on the slopes.”