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These great Reuters photos taken by Michael Fiala are realistically showing what was the atmosphere on the WTA Tennis Tournament in Indian Wells between Serbian player Ana Ivanovic and Russian player Vera Zvonareva. Vera won in two straight sets.
It hasn’t been a great 12 months for Ana Ivanovic. A finalist at Indian Wells last year, she lost her opening match at the $4.5-million tournament this year, a defeat that will likely drop her out of the Top 50.
So where might the French Open champion and former No.1 – still one of the most recognizable faces of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour – be headed? Well, if history – and her belief – is anything to go by, the only way is up.
When Ivanovic first cracked the Top 50 in March 2005, it only propelled her to higher heights: by the end of the season she was in the Top 20, and after her first Grand Slam title in Paris in 2008, she ascended to No.1, the first player representing Serbia to go that high. So, when the wave of confidence began, it kept going and didn’t stop until she was literally at the top.
Then came the last 20 months or so, where lack of confidence and a series of injuries – none career-threatening, all momentum-halting – contributed to her falling to where she was coming into Indian Wells: No.28 in the world. She is projected to dip just outside the Top 50 after this tournament.
Top players almost always get back to the top after falling off the map. The most obvious examples are Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, as well as the Williams sisters, who were largely written off in 2006 but are now both firmly at the very top of the game. Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati, Mary Pierce… Monica Seles, who Ivanovic saw on TV as a child and then started playing…
They’ve all done it, and Ivanovic will do the same.
“With the loss of confidence I’ve had, I was pulling up on a lot of shots. In matches I’d try to hit the ball and the mistakes would come. I was wondering if I should really be going for those balls or pulling back. But I know I just have to keep hitting it in the same way, because that’s the way the ball should be hit.”
It doesn’t hurt that she just recently acquired Heinz Günthardt, longtime coach of arguably the greatest women’s player of all time, Steffi Graf.
The legendary coach didn’t save her from a straight set loss at Indian Wells to No.63-ranked Anastasija Sevastova on Saturday night. It’s still very early.
“It’s tough, because I really felt a lot more confident over the last few weeks practicing with Heinz. We worked on a lot of things and it was going really, really well. I was disappointed I couldn’t find the answers here, but I had a lot of opportunities. It could have been different. It was a few points here and there.
“Now, after a long time, I actually feel a lot freer out there, like I was creating chances myself. Heinz said it’s not going to happen overnight.”