Ivanovic chases maiden Grand Slam

Updated: 15 January 2008 16:17 IST

Glamourous world number four Ana Ivanovic is hoping to build on a breakthrough season in 2007 to snare her first Grand Slam at the Australian Open.

Ivanovic chases maiden Grand Slam

MELBOURNE:

Glamourous world number four Ana Ivanovic is hoping to build on a breakthrough season in 2007 to snare her first Grand Slam at the Australian Open.

The Serb has already established herself as a crowd favourite at Melbourne Park but will be looking to display a ruthless streak that has previously been missing from her on-court displays at the tournament.

Ivanovic climbed from 14 to a career-high four in the world rankings last year, reaching the French Open final, the last four at Wimbledon and claiming titles in Berlin, Los Angeles and Luxembourg.

The 20-year-old ranks the Australian Open as one of her favourite tournaments, enjoying the support of Melbourne-based relatives and the city's large expatriate Serb community.

She will be part of a strong Serbian contingent in this year's women's draw alongside world number three Jelena Jankovic.

But Ivanovic has never progressed beyond the third round here, her worst record at the tennis world's four majors.

After wilting in the fierce heat last year, Ivanovic has given herself plenty of time to acclimatise, arriving Down Under in early December to train with her Australian fitness coach Scott Byrnes.

She even visited Britain's National Tennis Centre in London late last year and had the indoor court heated to 37 Celsius (98.6 F) to replicate the gruelling conditions in Australia.

Ivanovic said she felt confident heading into the tournament.

"There are many opponents and players who want exactly the same thing, but I think I have a game that can get me to win a Grand Slam."

Ivanovic insisted she was carrying no mental scars from her defeat to world number one Justine Henin in the French Open final, where she admitted nerves got the better of her as she slumped to a 6-1, 6-2 loss.

"In the final I was emotional and I thought 'I might win a Grand Slam', but I just think that's necessary experience and next time I'm in that situation I will know what to expect," she said.

Ivanovic's recent on-court success has been matched by her rising profile away from the game, including appearances in US Vogue and on the cover of a British magazine hailing sports "new pin-ups".

It is a far cry from when she was growing up in Serbia during NATO bombing raids on Belgrade and had to practice in a empty swimming pool or find a wall against which she could bash a tennis ball.

"We didn't have other opportunities. We were lucky at all to have somewhere to practice," she said.

"We had to share with other kids. We would have 45 minutes on a big court and 45 minutes against the wall and that was all we had. Once I started travelling and seeing other facilities, other countries, it was amazing."

The brunette also won a "sexiest player of 2007" award from North Amercian tennis writers, more than doubling the vote of leggy Russian Maria Sharapova.

Ivanovic attempted to put her profile to good used by becomeing a UNICEF ambassador for Serbia last September, promoting education and child protection in her homeland.

She was not concerned her fashion commitments would prove a distration from her stated aim of becoming world number one.

"We spend a lot of time practising and if I get a chance to do something different and go out of the tennis (arena) it's always nice and I enjoy that," she said.

Between fashion shoots, Ivanovic said she had been improving all aspects of her game.

"I worked a lot on my serve, I think I can use it much more as a weapon," she said. "Also improving my backhand, stepping more into it. In general, you know, on the whole aspect."



Topics : Tennis Ana Ivanovic
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