I stayed up till 3am last night/this morning, watching Ana Ivanovic painfully slump to a 1st round defeat in the US Open against unseeded Katernya Bondarenko. This morning, I'm left wondering just what on earth has happened to my dear old Ana. First up, I'll give you a quick biography, because her story, particularly in the early days, is quite interesting.
Ana is now classified as Serbian, but back in her youth Belgrade, her place of birth, was part of Yugoslavia. Inspired by the great Yugoslav player Monica Seles (y'know, the one that was stabbed), Ana memorised the phone number of a local tennis centre, and a star was born. It wasn't easy however - growing up, Belgrade was being bombed constantly, forcing her to train in the mornings only. In the cold winters, there were no facilities, so Ana used to train in an abandoned swimming pool. So, in a way it's a miracle that she got where she has.
She rose up and up the rankings, winning tournaments, battling top 5 players, getting to latter stages of Grand Slam events and making a name for herself, before last year, at the age of 20, she won the French Open and clinched the Number 1 ranking in the world. Great player, nice person, attractive - she was tipped to be the new tennis superstar.
- Wimbledon 08, 3rd round.
- US Open 08, 2nd round.
- Australian Open 09, 3rd round.
- French Open 09, 4th round.
- Wimbledon 09, 4th round.
- US Open 09, 1st round.
It's been her worst year since she turned pro. She hasn't defeated a Top 10 player this year. She's only won back-to-back matches on six different occasions in the whole year. Just what the fuck has happened?
I don't think she has been "found out", necessarily. She's too talented for that. I don't think she's lost her drive or her motivation - she's only won 1 Grand Slam title after all, not 10. Injuries have been a problem, and I wonder about her knee, which was strapped up for a long, long time. My feelings are that she's become a bit confused in where she's going - and becoming World Number 1 at such a young age and after such a rapid rise perhaps hindered her long-term career rather than helped it. Coaches have come and gone, as have fitness instructors. This excellent article sums it all up better than I could. For once, an article about Ana that doesn't just go down the "ZOMG shes so fit" route, once you get past the title.
Whatever the problem, let's hope Ana gets it sorted. There's no Grand Slams left for her this year now, until the Australian Open she's pretty much done. Let's see what a rest does for her.