NEW YORK, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Ana Ivanovic has taken a page out of Roger Federer’s training manual and will be going it alone at next week’s Australian Open.
After collecting 13 grand slam titles, Federer has set the benchmark of how to succeed without having a full-time coach by his side and it is a strategy Ivanovic hopes will work for her at Melbourne Park.
“I already do know a lot about tennis and about other players (and) I think I’m very young and maybe a full-time coach could still be very helpful,” the Serbian said as she looked ahead to the start of the Open on Monday.
“(But) at this moment, I think I can handle it the way it is.”
Most players hire a full-time coach, whose role can vary from tactician and strategist to psychologist and substitute parent. Sven Groeneveld fulfilled some of those tasks in 2008 when he worked with Ivanovic on an ad-hoc basis.
The Dutchman, who was employed by Ivanovic’s sponsors, helped her to win her maiden grand slam at the French Open last June but she has now decided to rely on her own instincts.
Apart from being self-reliant, Ivanovic declared herself fit and eager to return to the Open where she will try to satisfy a New Year’s tennis resolution by winning a second major.
“I feel healthy, had a great off-season and I feel the fittest I’ve ever been actually,” the 21-year-old said in a conference call from Melbourne to promote the “Billie Jean King Cup” against the Williams sisters and Jelena Jankovic in New York’s Madison Square Garden on March 2.
“That gives me confidence going into next week.”
Ivanovic, whose Paris win catapulted her to a temporary reign as world number one, needs to go one match better than last year’s runner-up finish to Maria Sharapova to hit her 2009 target.
“I really want to focus on winning another grand slam...and to be a little more consistent,” she said.
“I had some success but also some down times, so I want to try to be more consistent, have a more stable year.”
Ivanovic stumbled from the top ranking after a nagging thumb injury contributed to her winning just five matches in her six tournaments following Roland Garros, including a second-round defeat at the U.S. Open by French qualifier Julie Coin.
The Serbian, who finished the year ranked fifth, said she learned a lot from the ups and downs of 2008.
“I took some time to get used to everything, it was a new situation for me. It was very exciting. It was the best time of my career so far,” she added.
“I had some great experiences and then obviously some tough ones at the end of the year. I think I learned a lot from last year about myself and about my game and that is something I definitely can take as a positive this year.”
Ivanovic felt she should not have pushed herself so hard.
“After I got injured I should have taken some time off but I was 24 hours a day thinking about tennis, what did I do wrong and why this injury is not going away,” she said.
“I was kind of upset and maybe I should have relaxed a little bit and maybe take some time away from it. Once I started competing again I was drained because my mind was still on tennis. It took a lot of energy out of me.”
To get her mind off the tennis grind, Ivanovic plans to spend more time with her brother and indulge in her love of shopping.
She also wants to regain the top spot in the rankings which is currently occupied by compatriot Jankovic, who finished 2008 as world number one even though she has yet to win a slam.
Ivanovic did not begrudge Jankovic her standing, however.
“If you do well, the rankings take care of themselves,” Ivanovic said, preferring to focus tournament to tournament rather than worry about her place in the pecking order.
“Jelena is obviously a great player. Whoever gets to number one deserves it. It was a very, very close race for the number one position. I think she was tough and the most consistent of all of us and she deserved that position.”
With Sharapova not defending her Open title because of a shoulder injury, Ivanovic acknowledged that the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, were likely to be her biggest obstacles over the next two weeks.
“I have great memories coming here. I try to approach it every year as a new event, as a tournament that I want to win rather than defend something that I did last year,” the Serbian said. “That’s how I want to focus for this week as well.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar