INTERVIEW-Tennis-Ivanovic looks for further grand slam success
LOS ANGELES |
LOS ANGELES Aug 20 (Reuters) - Serb Ana Ivanovic cracked the world top five after reaching the French Open final and Wimbledon semi-finals and now has her sights set on making a big splash at next week's U.S. Open.
"I feel more confident in my game and I feel like I've improved a lot," the 19-year-old Belgrade native told Reuters in an interview.
"I'm very excited to play another grand slam. I've played the U.S. open before and never reached the second week. My goal is to get there for the first time."
With a big serve, one of the most powerful forehands on the women's tour and a sound volley, the 6-foot-tall (1.83 metres) Ivanovic has hit her stride in 2007.
She won her second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Tier I title in Berlin in May and then at the French Open stunned world number two Maria Sharapova and number four Svetlana Kuznetsova to reach the final, where she was buried by Justine Henin.
At Wimbledon, Ivanovic avoided a natural letdown and powered to the semi-finals, knocking out fellow teenager Nicole Vaidisova in a dramatic three-set quarter-final before falling to eventual champion Venus Williams in the semis.
"It was amazing," Ivanovic said. "It took some time to realise what was happening and that I beat so many top players. But I got more mature and put in the hard work and I could control my emotions much better. I was happy that I finally got the results."
Ivanovic had already showed promise in 2006, winning the Canadian Open, but her results were inconsistent.
But this year she felt her conditioning had improved, as had her mental approach and she was ready to make a bigger push.
"Somewhere deep inside I felt this," she said. "Winning Berlin helped. I felt more confident and relaxed and I knew not to get too over-excited. That's when I start missing and then I want to improve too fast, then I start to miss and get out of my rhythm."
Ivanovic said much of the key to her success has been her new-found ability to think about what she should be doing technically and strategically in the moment, rather than what lies ahead of her.
She said in her loss to Henin in the French Open final, she had forgotten to do that.
"I was thinking I can win a grand slam now and then it all changed and I got too nervous, but I learned from that."
The Serb is proud that she was able to rebound at Wimbledon and reach the semi-finals, but there she experienced a slight tear in her left knee, which affected her in her loss to Williams.
She consequently pulled out of tournaments at Stanford and San Diego but walked away with the top prize when she made her comeback in Los Angeles.
Ivanovic believes she has found her place in the top echelon of the game.
"I feel an excitement to be where I am," she said. "Reaching the top 10 was my goal for a while and now I feel my game is at a really high level.
"But I need to take it step by step and not think too much about it, because it's dangerous if I don't think realistically."
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