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By Chris Oddo
Photo Credit: Mark Howard
Ana Ivanovic

(March 23, 2012)—It’s been quite some time since Ana Ivanovic was the No. 1 player in the world—almost four years, in fact—or even finished a year inside the WTA’s top ten, but after last week’s semifinal run at the BNP Paribas Open, there is a new wave of hope in the Ivanovic camp.

With a player of Ivanovic’s caliber and star-power, the media tends to switch their hype machine a little bit early when she is concerned. It happened, certainly, when Heinz Gunthardt was her coach in 2010. While under the German’s tutelage (Gunthardt is also known for coaching Steffi Graf), hopes were high that Ivanovic had finally turned the corner and would soon return to her trailblazing ways. But later in the year a collective groan was let out when Ivanovic and Gunthardt parted ways. 

As often as Ivanovic, a huge fan-favorite on the WTA tour regardless of ranking, has shown signs of her old magic on the court, she has fallen back into a directionless state of confusion just as often.
A lack of stability in her coaching box certainly has hindered Ivanovic over the years, but confidence, no matter who her coach has been at the time, has always been a bigger issue.

“The most important thing, it really has to come from me,” Ivanovic said during an interview at the Bank of the West Classic in 2010. “Confidence comes from yourself.”

While building confidence has been relatively easy (she’s still a top 20 player, and hasn’t finished a season ranked lower than 22 since becoming No. 1), maintaining it is the bigger challenge for Ivanovic.

This week in Miami, where Ivanovic has already managed to surpass compatriot Jelena Jankovic as the No. 1-ranked Serb for the first time since 2008, Ivanovic will attempt to tap into that most important of tennis clich├ęs: momentum.

“I feel good about my game,” said Ivanovic after her 6-4, 7-5 victory over American Vania King today. “You know, things are coming together nicely. I get lots of confidence from last week.”

And, unlike other seasons, where the couching carousel kept spinning and spinning, Ivanovic should benefit from a stable relationship with her newest coach, Nigel Sears.

“We really communicate well,” Ivanovic said of Sears, whom she hired last June, “and I feel I can learn a lot from him still.  That's really important. I think we both enjoy that kind of relationship.”

As far as wins and ranking points, Ivanovic is not overly concerned with the numbers. Playing with confidence and executing her shots, she feels, will help everything else fall into place.

“That's nice, but I actually don't try and look at the rankings,” said Ivanovic when informed by the press that she would once again be the highest-ranked Serb after Miami. “Nigel just told me last week, Oh, great, you're 15. I said, I played semifinal to move one spot?”

“I'm just really happy with where my game is at the moment. Also, I was real excited to be ranked 10 in the race, which was kind of my goal for the year. So that kind of was exciting. I was like, Oh, we have to have a glass of wine tonight.”

If things continue to go well, Ivanovic might have to hire a sommelier as part of her team. But as of now, she’s just happy to be playing well.

Ivanovic will face Daniela Hantuchova in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open on Sunday.


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