INTERVIEW-Tennis-Tough run has left Ivanovic fearless of defeat
ROME May 8 (Reuters) - Two years in the tennis wilderness has not been all bad for Ana Ivanovic, the former world number one says it has helped her get over her fear of failure.
The 22-year-old Ivanovic has won just one Tier II tournament since her breakthrough grand slam victory at the French Open in 2008, falling to number 58 in the world, but she showed promising signs by reaching the last four at the Italian Open this week.
"From all the experiences I've had, losing doesn't seem so scary any more because I'm really having fun on the court again," Ivanovic told Reuters.
"It (the refusal to quit) is very much a testament to my character. There were times when it was really tough and I was wondering 'what am I doing?' as I'd been putting in all this hard work but there were no results.
"I was doubting myself. There was lots of doubt and lots of fear. But just trying to be persistent and trying to work hard eventually gives results."
Ivanovic said she is confident she is now "back on track" after beating Victoria Azarenka and Elena Dementieva in Rome for her first wins over top 10 opponents in 18 months.
The Serb, who has been working with Steffi Graf's former coach Heinz Guenthardt since February, credited her wins to the improvements she has made in her previously malfunctioning serve.
"I think serve is a big part of it," said Ivanovic, who lost in the semi-finals on Friday in straight sets to Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. "Just swinging freely and getting more confidence (is important) because what I think happened is that once my serve was gone I felt so much pressure on other parts of my game because I felt I had to do more with them.
"Then obviously you make some mistakes and your confidence goes, and I lost confidence in all of my shots. That has kind of come back."
And most importantly for Ivanovic is having fun on court, which she said has helped her regain her love of the game.
"When I started with Heinz, the first thing he got me to do was swing freely because I'd been kind of pushing the ball and you cannot really play that way," she said.
"The most important thing for me now is just to enjoy myself. I'd been really putting so much pressure on myself and being so stressed about whether I was going to win or lose.
"Now it's just going out there and competing again and it's just fun to do that."
(Edited by Patrick Johnston; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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