It's been a year with several stops and starts for Ana Ivanovic, but after a disappointing loss to Louisa Chirico in Madrid, the former world number one got off to a good start in Rome. Our contributor René Denfeld caught up with the Serb after her first-round win on Monday evening to talk about all things Italy, fashion, tennis, and private life.
It's Monday evening, 11 pm at the Foro Italico and Ana Ivanovic just got her first win in Rome under her belt, taking out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets — but it wasn't without some difficult moments, since the Russian went up an early break in the second set. The momentum was never with one of the two players for longer than a few games. Still, for Ivanovic it was an important start in a city she has always enjoyed competing in.
"Yeah, I definitely enjoy Italy and I've been here since Madrid, I came straight here. That was also really nice to get some downtime. I think it's one of the greatest cities in Europe and the world actually, but I never won this event, so that's one I would definitely like to conquer," Ivanovic smiled, knowing that it would be far from an easy endeavor to capture the title in the Eternal City.
"It's definitely a long way away, but I'm just so happy to have played a good match and actually enjoyed being on court and competing and going through tough moments in the match!"
The level of enjoyment has been something that's been a big factor for the Serb and in-between all the competing and the scoreboard pressure and desire to win matches it's something that can occasionally slip through the cracks — something that's been an important topic for her and her coach Nigel Sears ahead of this week and during their on-court coaching on Monday.
"I put a lot of effort in and so much hard work and off the court and that sort of also created great pressure because I felt like I'm in great form that I just couldn't get in the match court," the 28-year-old explained as we sat between Campo Centrale and Pietrangeli on a warm spring night in Rome.
"So I had a great chat with Nigel last week and you know, we had a little bit of a different approach this week and that's why he was mentioning it. It's a big step for me to perform well because you know, after all I love the game and I love tennis."
Over the course of the past years, Ivanovic has had lots of rumours and headlines around her private life — just like last week when Serbian tabloid Blic reported that she might be pregnant. Ivanovic herself basically has chosen to ignore most of these stories and there's only one person that'll make her pay any attention to them.
"I heard lots of things, but [me being pregnant] is actually the weirdest. Honestly, I haven't read it because, to be honest, I don't read anything and so many untrue things are spoken. The only time I'm actually worried is when I'm getting a call from my grandma and she's like "Really?" and I'm like "No, grandma" – "But they said so" "Yes, but it's not true!"" the Serb explained before adding with a big laugh "but I just hope that's not them referring to my weight!"
Even though the Serb still has some off-court commitments on-site, she is planning to enjoy life and the evening in Rome on her day off — so long as her schedule permits it.
"I managed to do a little bit of sightseeing and a little bit more history — I love history here, so tomorrow I have to do a few things on site, it's gonna be a busy day and then relax from the schedule a little bit. Since I'm not playing too early (on Wednesday) hopefully a nice dinner somewhere in town – I like these local little places."
For the rest of the tournament, however, Ivanovic's sights are firmly set on the challenges ahead and the 28-year-old herself knows that she's possibly got a tough one ahead of her in the third round — almost an oddity considering many other players shy away from ever looking at possible future opponents when they're in a tournament mode.
"Every match is different, I would love to," Ivanovic said before catching her thoughts, "obviously we all see the draw — so I would love to have the challenge against Serena. That would be really nice, but one step at a time. I have a really tough match next round, so I'm going to try and focus on that, just try to keep enjoying myself and not put so much pressure on the outside," Ivanovic said and also explained why she's always aware of her draw — at least to a certain degree.
"The thing is I have very good peripheral vision, so I have a photographic memory. When I see [the draw], I can't focus on just one name and kind of get the whole area of the draw a little bit but yeah, I definitely don't look too much ahead. This year it's been lots of upsets and it's just about taking care of each match."
Rome will be the last tournament for Ivanovic in her current outfit, the Adidas Spring Adizero Dress. In Paris she is going to be wearing the Y-3 collection by Adidas once again, which has been mooted as the "Zebra"-kit by many people.
"I'm halfway there," Ivanovic laughed and pointed at her shoes.
"[We don't have] so much [input], actually! Last year they came up with Y-3 collection. I think that's exciting to bring a little bit more fashion into sports design, it was I think a very nice outfit and this year also," the 28-year-old said.
On the design front itself, last year's semifinalist at the French Open can add little flourishes and touches that suit her and that she enjoys wearing.
"Not that much input with the design, just little bit with like necklines or something that I prefer you know, some people prefer to have capsleeves, so this is the input that I can give, but they certainly know what I like."
What Ivanovic would probably like most is to book her spot in the third round here in Rome — she'll get a chance to do so tomorrow against American Christina McHale. (photos: Jimmie48)