Ana Ivanovic: Kick-Ass
The world never ceases to amaze. More specifically, the game of tennis never ceases to amaze. It is old news that the pretty girl from Serbia, the former world No.1 and the 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic is suffering an extended sophomore syndrome after a highly successful 2008. Her service toss is awful, her ground strokes lack penetration and are error prone, arguably the best inside-out forehand in Women’s tennis (after Steffi Graf) is not at the level where it should be, and the inability to win two consecutive matches have been the least of her worries.
The major worries have been deep down in the mind. During the initial part of her decline it was her denial mode—she claimed herself as one of the contenders before U.S. Open ’09 and she failed to win her opening match after leading by a set and 3-1 in the second. During the later part, it has been her confidence when she accepted the situation, and tried everything possible to make a comeback—even tried to divert her mind with a stint with playboy magazine—but apparently nothing seemed to work. And if you are short on confidence, nothing is ever going to work for you. Ask Rafael Nadal during the later half of 2009 when he was struggling to stay apace with the players whom he is routinely beating right now. Or ask Roger Federer who did everything right in the Australian Open 2009 only to lose it all in the fifth set.
If you believe in yourself—are confident in your abilities—you will find a way out of trouble, either by raising your level, or by making your presence felt and forcing the level of your opponent to drop. There is usually no substitute for confidence.
Err..maybe there is. Anger. And motivation. I saw one of the episodes of the great Indian epic, Mahabharat, where the greatest archer of that era, Arjun, was constantly staring at the fire and feeling the heat. When Lord Krishna asked why, he told that he was raising his anger which will help him fight against his enemies better. It directly leads to motivation—if of course, used positively (like how John McEnroe used it, and not like Marat Safin or Goran Ivanisevic).
This is what has happened to the Serbian beauty. She is struggling after being dropped 64 places in the space of two years, and organizers at Montreal Masters thought it to be the apt time to kick an already demotivated celebrity and make her go further down. Ivanovic asked for a wild card, and Montreal denied it even though Ivanovic has done lots to promote this tournament.
“The way I analyzed it was that, yes, she’s a player who has done a lot for our tournament, almost saved it one year. She has a lot of charisma. Everyone likes her. But the fact is that she hasn’t demonstrated (with her play) that she deserves a wild card. It’s not the same as a player who has been injured and away for a while. … She is the one who dropped down to No. 65, not because of an injury. If I were her coach, I’d force her to play qualies.”
Ouch! That hurts. Deep. The anger from Ivanovic’s side was understandable as it was not a mere case of a request being turned down. It was outright embarrassment. The organizers realized their mistake and later offered her a wild card, but she promptly turned it down.
And when such an incident happens, you can only go two ways. Either take the kick on the rear end and go further down, or face up, take the kick in the stomach, get hurt during the process but show your desire to fight. This is exactly what Ivanovic has done.
Her progress at Cincinnati has been worthy of notice after she has won three straight games, and reached into the final four. She has only lost one set during the process (and that against the heavyweight Victoria Azarenka), has committed only 9 double faults in three matches (usually that was the number she boasted in one single set), and has not lost her serve in the last two matches. Pretty impressive, eh? Not yet. Her six set victories in the tournament so far include some impressive figures, 6-2, 6-1, and 6-0 beat downs, one in each match. Now Ivanovic is talking—fist pumping.
Her quarterfinal looks acceptable as she will play Amanmuradova (probably some Russian. Does that mean she chokes too?). She has already reached the semis of Rome this year (before losing her way yet again in French Open and Wimbledon), but this time there seems to be a fire in her belly. It has come to the point where she not only needs to prove herself, but make a statement.
Sometimes a kick in the rear does more wonder than varieties of coaching. Though only when there is enough muscle to take that punch in the stomach.