MELBOURNE (AFP) – Former world number one Ana Ivanovic says she’s finally ready to fulfil her undoubted potential as she gears up to contest the Australian Open at her “second home” Melbourne Park.
The Serb burst onto the scene when she won the French Open as a 20-year-old and appeared destined to claim multiple Grand Slams but struggled with overnight success and slid down the rankings.
A bubbly personality off the court, Ivanovic appeared mentally fragile under the spotlight in crunch matches and all-too-often allowed opponents who lacked her skills or physical attributes to dominate her.
Now aged 27, rebuilding has been a long process but Ivanovic said she had clawed her way back to become world number five in 2014 and was hungry for further Grand Slam success.
She said she has a new-found confidence after beating some top names last year.
“Confidence, preparation, everything comes into play,” she said. “It’s a lot to do with confidence. It takes time for certain things to fall into place.
“Last year I really felt I made big steps towards winning more matches, beating top players. These kinds of things you sort of have to have in place in order to do well at the big events. I feel like I’m ready for next step.”
Since appointing new coach Dejan Petrovic in the middle of last year, she has been concentrating on enjoying her tennis rather than fretting over rankings and felt she had made “a fresh start”.
“I really want to take it one step at a time and enjoy because I think my tennis is at a different level than it was last year,” she said.
The relaxed approach saw her reach the final of the Brisbane International warm-up tournament, where she pushed Maria Sharapova to the brink.
Ivanovic has always been popular with the crowds in Melbourne, where she has family, making it a perfect venue to begin her renewed focus on Grand Slam success.
“They love sport. They love to cheer. They get loud, that’s exciting,” she said.
“There’s lots of kids always out here that come and support us. It’s their summer holidays so people are a little bit more relaxed. Since I don’t have a tournament at home, this is like second home for me.”