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Tennis: Ivanovic sets sights on settling score in Singapore

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ANA IVANOVIC tells SportAsia she’s keen to return to the WTA Finals, although a series of early exits in recent tournaments has left her a lowly 25th on the Road to Singapore.

 

May 11, 2015: Ana Ivanovic was one of the most popular performers at last year’s WTA Finals Singapore, where she was competing in the showpiece event for the first time since 2008, the year she won the French Open, rose to World No. 1 and established herself as one of the stars of the game.

 

Last October, the six-foot Serb’s appearance as one of eight singles players in the US$7 million spectacle at Singapore Sports Hub was just reward for her return to the top table of tennis after a stunning season that yielded four WTA titles.

 

However, while Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki – the world’s current top five – already look on course for a return to Singapore later this year, Ivanovic currently labours in 25th place on the Road to Singapore. Like Agnieszka Radwanska and Eugenie Bouchard, Ivanovic has a long way to go to secure a return to the Lion City.

 

After starting the season brightly by meeting Sharapova in the Brisbane Open final in early January, Ivanovic has seriously struggled. She exited in the first round of the Australian Open and in her next six WTA events has only progressed past the last 16 once, losing in the semis as the top seed in Mexico.

 

Ivanovic, 27, even parted ways with coach Dejan Petrovic ahead of the recent Madrid Open, where she won back-to-back matches for the first time in five tournaments before losing to Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round.

 

Ivanovic won two of her three group matches, but missed out on the semis. Action Photos: Paul Lakatos / World Sport Group.

Ivanovic won two of her three matches in Singapore, but missed out on the semis. Action Photos: Paul Lakatos / WSG.

On current form, a second Grand Slam looks unlikely in the foreseeable future, but Ivanovic admitted that she wants to return to the WTA Finals, where she was won over by the crowds at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

 

“Qualifying for this year’s WTA Finals is definitely one of my priorities and I would love to reach it. It’s a very special feeling to be among the best,” Ivanovic told SportAsia.

 

“It was a great experience. That was my third time to play in Singapore, so it was very special for me. I really felt the fans were really into tennis. They love the competition, they were knowledgeable about tennis and the stadium was always full, so that’s exciting for us, as players. It was a great feeling to play.”

 

Ivanovic was arguably the unluckiest of the eight players, having run Williams close in a 6-4, 6-4 defeat before crushing Bouchard 6-1, 6-3 and beating Halep 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 only to finish third in the White Group. In contrast, Radwanska progressed to the semis behind Wozniacki in the Red Group after winning only one of her three round-robin matches.

 

Ivanovic was a star attraction at the official draw in Marina Bay Sands. Photo: SportAsia.

Ivanovic was a star attraction at the official draw in Marina Bay Sands. Photo: SportAsia.

“It was my big goal to actually compete in Singapore, but it was a little bit disappointing that I won two matches and still didn’t qualify for the semi-finals,” said Ivanovic, who was competing in the WTA Finals for the third time, having reached the semis on her debut in 2007. “Sometimes that’s how it is and hopefully I’ll have another opportunity.”

 

The first WTA Finals to be held in the Asia-Pacific featured a host of other attractions aside from the eight-player singles showdown and expanded eight-team doubles competition. The 10-day spectacle also featured a Legends exhibition starring Martina Navratilova and competitions for Rising Stars in their early 20s and teenage Future Stars.

 

Ivanovic believes exposing young players to today’s leading lights and a world-class tournament is hugely beneficial for youngsters looking to further their careers in the sport.

 

“I think it’s very good for young people to actually be among the top players and to gain experience for the future,” she said. “My only advice to them is to really follow their dreams, to work hard and try to make the most out of their potential and possibilities.”

 

Ivanovic is hopeful of returning to the WTA Finals, but has a lot of ground to make up on the Road to Singapore.

Ivanovic, 27, is hopeful of returning to the WTA Finals, but has a lot of ground to make up on the Road to Singapore.

Although Ivanovic is desperate to qualify for Singapore, she’s already committed to returning to Asia in December for the second, expanded edition of the IPTL (International Premier Tennis League).

 

This year, she will be teammates with Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych after being signed by the UAE Royals, having played all four legs last year for champions Indian Aces along with Gael Monfils, Indian duo Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna, and Federer, who played the home leg in New Delhi.

 

“It was great to be part of the team because we compete in an individual sport and it really brought players together – guys, girls and legends. This is very special, so I really enjoyed it. Also, I went to cities I’ve never been before and made some new friendships, which are also very important.”

 

Ivanovic has reason to enjoy her visits to Asia, having won back-to-back titles at the former Tournament of Champions in Bali and lifted the Pan Pacific Open trophy in Tokyo last September. She also acknowledged that the increasing number of events in Asia – the WTA staged 10 in China alone last year – means that she’ll keep coming back to this part of the world, but admitted the travel did take its toll.

 

“Definitely it’s good for growth of tennis. I love travelling, but it’s sometimes a little bit difficult for players to move around and travel a lot, but I think for developing tennis worldwide, I think it’s great.”

 

For information on the WTA Finals, visit: www.wtafinals.com

 

With thanks to WTA for arranging interview

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