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MASON, Ohio, Aug 12 (Reuters) - The female touch has brought a little more fun into the routine of former world number one Ana Ivanovic as she tries to claw her way back up the world rankings.
Ivanovic has slumped to 62nd in the world rankings having not won a tournament in nearly two years or appeared in a final since March 2009.
But the smile was on the Serb's face on Thursday after she confidently defeated Russia's Elena Vesnina 6-0 6-3 to book her spot in the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati Open.
Ivanovic has never been one to show much disappointment at her defeats, but there is a distinctly fresh bounce in her step she credits to new physical fitness coach Marija Lojanica.
"It's been also a lot fun working out with a girl and just having fun and throwing in a dance or whatever. You know, just actually enjoying it," said Ivanovic. "She's a girl, so we can go shopping together, watch movies, do our nails. It just keeps your mind off tennis."
Lojanica, who works with the Serbian Fed Cup team, joined Ivanovic's staff following Wimbledon but the pair have known each other since the 2008 French Open winner was 13.
Ivanovic says she has undergone "huge progress" in her fitness and her morale has been lifted working with a woman.
"In the past I was with male coaches, and you do a job and go back to the room. I really like to read and it was sort of relaxing," she said.
"But then after all, you find you have spent all day in a room, and it gets kind of depressing. So it's good to go out and just do a fun girly stuff."
While that has meant eating popcorn at the cinema, the work with Lojanica has also brought benefits on the court.
"I'm much better physically at the moment, and I feel stronger on the court. So that puts me in better position to hit the ball, which then I can generate more power and hurt opponents more. So it's kind of a circle. It's all kind of connected," said Ivanovic.
"That's what I've been always saying in past few months. It was always this balance, my tennis, fitness, it was always, you know, playing catch up in some ways. But now I feel it's sort of all marrying together, and it's starting to work and click really well."
The 22-year-old from Belgrade is coached by Steffi Graf's former coach Heinz Gunthardt from Switzerland and believes she can get back to the very top of the rankings.
Ivanovic argues she is at least as good now as she was when she was the top rated player in the world.
"In some ways I am probably better, I think, because I'm being more aggressive than I was back then. I'm much more experienced than I was then," she said.
"When you're young and up and coming and you win lots of the matches, you definitely take things for granted. I definitely don't do that anymore.
"In some way I feel like I'm different player and more mature one. I think in the long run, I'm better." (Editing by Frank Pingue; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)