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Ana Ivanovic Sports Illustrated Interview

As we already wrote Ana appeared on the cover of South African Sports Illustrated.

Here is an extract from the interview that was made earlier this year by the award-winning tennis writer Paul Fein and that was published as cover story at this months issue:

Of your mother, Dragana, you recently said, “She’s my best friend, too. It’s so important to have her on the road with me.” In what ways does your mother help you?
She is a great advisor. I feel like she understands me, and gives me the best support you could imagine. She never really gets angry with me, she just wants to see me happy and enjoying my tennis. She’s also my best friend and we can talk about everything.

Mary Joe Fernandez, an ESPN commentator and former French and Australian Open finalist, said you remind her very much of highly popular Kim Clijsters because you are so friendly and relaxed that you talk to your opponents before matches. Would you please tell me about that.
That’s nice to hear. Kim is a great person. I do sometimes talk to my opponents and I like to think I am quite a friendly person. But I am very competitive too, and I can’t say I am very close to any players.

Some tennis observers accused Kim Clijsters, who won 34 career singles titles but only one Grand Slam title, of being “too nice” to be a champion. You are genial and often smiling. Are you “too nice” to be a champion?
Definitely not. To be honest, this is a silly idea. When I am on the court, I want to win as much as anyone. I am extremely competitive. I am learning to be tougher on the court, but I don’t think you have to be mean or a bad person in order to win. I think I’m a great fighter when I’m on the court, and I’ve won some tough matches almost with determination alone.

You played a charity exhibition tiebreaker against Andre Agassi, as part of an event for Steffi’s Graf’s foundation in Manheim, Germany, last October. Why have you called this one of the most memorable experiences in your career?
Agassi is one of the most exciting players ever. He was a hero for me when I was a kid, so it was a special experience to play against him. He was also a great guy, very friendly and kind.

You have said you are emotional. What − on and off the courts − makes you most emotional?
I cry quite a lot. Sometimes about stuff that isn’t even that important, like a movie or a book. For example, I recently watched The Deer Hunter and Sliding Doors – two very different films, but I cried in both. On the court I am learning how to control my emotions better. I used to get angry with myself if I didn’t play perfect tennis, but I am learning how to relax more, which has been important for my improvement. I do some yoga and that helps with my relaxation and well-being.

You changed rackets last December. Why did you do it? And how has it worked out?
It’s been a great change for me. I really love Yonex rackets. I had never played with any other racket before – I used the same ones since I was a kid. So when I had the opportunity to test some Yonex rackets I was very excited, and pleasantly surprised that they add something to my game: my backhand has already improved, because I can hit a heavier ball. It was a long testing process because I had to be totally sure I wanted to change. They also take great care of me and provide a great service, so I am grateful to them.

In your newspaper column you wrote, “The biggest gossips are the coaches and agents.” What did your coach, Sven Groenefeld, and your agent, Gavin Versi, think of that?
Sven didn’t say anything about it but Gavin laughed! But it’s true, he loves gossip as much as anyone, so he couldn’t complain with me saying that. But in general women gossip more than men. In tennis people gossip about all kinds of things – romance, fights, this sort of stuff.

Last year you scored 14 wins over top 10-ranked players − more than any player aside from Henin – and boasted a terrific 8-3 record against the season-ending top five players. Why have you been so successful against elite players?
I actually didn’t know the exact numbers. Playing against the top players is a big motivation for me. They are great competitors, so I know that I have to be at my best to beat them. So I am very focused on my game, and very motivated.

You once said that your greatest goal is not to win a Grand Slam event or even be No. 1, but something else. What is it?
Well, actually my greatest goal is to be No.1. But I once said that I sometimes dream about playing the perfect match. I know it’s impossible, and maybe that’s why I’ve dreamt about it. I’ve played some very good ones, for example when I beat Mauresmo in Sydney two years ago, or the Montreal final in 2006, and the matches against Sharapova in Paris and Schnyder in Stuttgart last year. But I’ve not played the perfect match, and I probably never will.

What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you on the pro tour?
It was probably in Zurich last year, during the tournament. Scott and I went to dinner with Sven, whom was my coach for this tournament, and Mats, my hitting partner. Scott and I left while Sven and Mats were paying the bill. They thought we had gone straight back to the hotel, which by the way was in quite an isolated area. But we were actually hiding in a bush, and we jumped out with sticks in our hands. They screamed and freaked out so much. We were laughing about it all night.

(source Ana Ivanovic website)

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