There have been few periods in Ana Ivanovic's career when she has completely lost her optimism. Even though the former No.1 has not reached a Grand Slam final in nearly six years, she keeps plugging away and still believes in her prospects at the tournaments that matter most.
In the her rapid 6-1 6-2 victory over German upstart Annika Beck at the Australian Open on Wednesday, Ivanovic showed just why she is a threat to every elite player on a great day; she moved quickly, dominated the court with her most significant weapon, her forehand, didn't lose concentration, played standout defense and threw in a number of big serves.
She never took her foot off the gas, played very consistently and watched her foe commit 29 unforced errors in the 56-minute contest.
Since she reached the Australian Open 2008 final and a few months later won her sole Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, the Serbian has been unable to make it deep at another other majors, but she hasn't given up on her dreams of becoming a force again. She entered the tournament as the 14th seed, and is feeling very good about her game.
Her goal is to end the year in the final eight and reach the year-end WTA Championships. Putting a strong result at the Australian Open would certainly help her get a jump-start.
“That's my big goal,” said Ivanovic, who began the year in stellar fashion by winning the title in Auckland.
“I'm aware I have to work hard towards it.”
One of the reasons why the 26-year-old feels she has upped her game is her new team, which includes her Serbian coach Nemanja Kontic. They try to keep her positive, but it is up to her to keep her head held high on court.
“Whether it's positive or negative, you create patterns,” she said. “I really feel I broke out of that little negative spell. I just feel happy competing. I find strength and I enjoy having long points, long rallies, long games, and tough matches. That's what I was lacking in the past. These kind of matches opponents can see as well. That sometimes gives you an edge.”
One of those tough matches will be against Australian Samantha Stosur, who overwhelmed Sydney champion Tsvetana Pironkova on Wednesday night. Ivanovic owns a 4-3 edge in their career meetings, but they split contests at the end of last season. Ivanovic is looking forward to playing the home-crowd favourite at Rod Laver Arena.
“She's tough player, has very strong game. I have to raise my level in order to beat her,” Ivanovic said.
“I enjoy coming here and competing. I had great matches and great memories from Rod Laver Arena, especially in 2008. Also I remember we had also third-round match in 2006. It's going to be great atmosphere I hope. I hope it's going to be good match.”
The winner of their Friday encounter will meet world No. 1 Serena Williams in the fourth round. Besting Williams, who hasn't lost a match since early August, will be a big ask, but the Serbian feels like an upset is possible. No player is unbeatable, even if at times she looks that way.
“You go out there and you give your best,” Ivanovic said.
“We all thought that last year (at the Australian Open) too. Then she got knocked out by (Sloane) Stephens. It's tennis. It can go either way. I mean, she's definitely hot favorite. She's been playing amazing tennis. She's on top of women's game, there is no doubt about that. But I think a lot of girls are out for a challenge.”