INTERVIEW-Tennis-Open-Ivanovic hopes victory will not change her

PARIS, June 8 Sun Jun 8, 2008 12:34pm BST

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PARIS, June 8 (Reuters) - Ana Ivanovic is the newly crowned French Open champion but there are some things even a grand slam winner will not do -- like risk her chances of getting married.

"I better not sit at the end of this table," she told Reuters as she arrived in a small room underneath the Philippe Chatrier Court less than an hour after her victory.

As she manoeuvred herself away from the narrow end of a white rectangular table, she added: "My grandmother says this old story that if you sit on the end of the table, you'll never get married. It's a weird one..."

Weird or not, she was not about to tempt fate.

Superstitions over, she was ready to reflect on the greatest moment of her life.

"It was very hard to imagine this victory today. It's so, so thrilling and so amazing. I still don't realise what's happened out there," said Ivanovic, who beat Dinara Safina on Saturday to become the first woman representing Serbia to win a major title.

Despite fitting in countless training sessions at 7am in a drained swimming pool during the 1999 NATO bombings in Belgrade, Ivanovic admitted it was hard to believe that less than a decade on she would own the most important trophy in claycourt tennis.

"I never thought of it (coming true). Obviously I dreamt of it, but if it was possible, if it was reality... I wasn't sure," said the 20-year-old champion.

While reaching the French Open final 12 months ago and the Australian Open finale in January brought her within one match of making her dream a reality, she admitted another factor played a part.

Twenty five days ago, Ivanovic was getting ready to go on court for her second round match at the Italian Open in Rome when she suddenly heard that Justine Henin had quit the sport.

While the news was completely unexpected, since Henin would have been the overwhelming favourite to win the Roland Garros title for the fifth time in six years, it gave Ivanovic a glimmer of hope.

MATCH LOST

"I started thinking, hey maybe I can become number one but it was too much for me," said Ivanovic, who admitted she was so distracted by the news she ended up losing the match in Rome. "I (then told myself) just forget about it and go back to enjoying the tennis and enjoy competing like I always used to do. Because if you play well the ranking will come.

"It was very tough for me before coming to Paris and I really struggled because I found it really hard to deal with the expectations and the pressure.

"I tried to find something that helps to calm me down and just be in the moment. With my fitness coach we worked a lot on breathing and trying control the negative thoughts.

"I was really very proud how I managed to change from two weeks before the tournament and now so it was a huge step for me."

After fulfilling a life-long dream, Ivanovic remained confident that success would not change her.

"Growing up and starting to play on a professional tour I saw a lot of people change once they've had success," said Ivanovic, who will replace Maria Sharapova as the new number one when the rankings are released on Monday.

"So I always said I really don't want to be that person I always say to the team around me and to my family, 'look if I start acting weird, just pinch me and bring me back' I think it's important to be same person."

Had anyone pinched her yet? "Nope, so far so good."

(Editing by Dave Thompson)

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