SINGAPORE - Balance, says Ana Ivanovic, is the real key to success. Not only in terms of finding a pair of steady feet on the tennis court, but also attaining it in life.
The Serbian enjoyed winning her lone Grand Slam title, the 2008 French Open, but has not hit those heights since then.
Now, the 26-year-old's career is on an upswing again and she has worked out why.
Firstly, she has learnt to enjoy life outside competing on the court. "I realised I had wanted to see the places I've travelled to, but never got down to doing it. So I now take time to sight-see and go to nice restaurants with friends and it helps me relax and play better," said Ivanovic, on the sidelines of a promotional event with her apparel sponsor adidas at Raffles Institution yesterday.
"Now, I find a balance between life on and off the court by spending time with my family and friends whenever I can."
The results are promising. Earlier in September, she won the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, and made the China Open semi-finals, en route to securing a spot in the season-ending BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global - the third time she has qualified for the event.
She was also the most consistent female tennis player this season, leading the pack with 56 wins under her belt.
Besides Ivanovic's new-found balance in life, the second factor that contributed to her recent success is the camaraderie of her all-Serbian backroom team - coach Dejan Petrovic, fitness trainer Zlatko Novokic and physio Dusan Mitrovic.
The trio helped her to "really enjoy practising and competing again". She explained: "Being Serbians, they understand what I'm going through and (make me feel at home) by making jokes, singing and dancing together."
Back in 2008, she was already world No. 1 before her French Open victory at the age of 20 and was tipped to stake her claim as one of the female greats.
However, she went into a spiral, sliding as low as world No. 65 in 2010, and she failed to break into the top eight world rankings from 2009 to 2013.
"I was just 20, and it was overwhelming at the time," said Ivanovic. "I was working hard but things just weren't falling into place until some time last year where I started playing better and enjoyed myself more, which is showing on the tennis court now."
Her positivity shone through yesterday, when she interacted with about 50 tennis players from RI and Raffles Girls' School.
Along with another former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep, they took to the courts with the students, before posing for photographs with them.
Halep then went to the Ministry of Education's Evans Road complex to surprise 19 Methodist Girls' School tennis players for an informal dialogue session.
While she enjoys giving back to the tennis community, there is no doubt about Ivanovic's main target in Singapore - winning her first WTA Finals title for a fairy-tale ending to her season.
"Third time is a charm right? Winning this would be a dream come true, and a great birthday present," said the Serb, whose birthday is on Nov 6.
This article was first published on October 18, 2014.
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