Ivanovic is fluffing her lines

Yesterday's dismal, error-ridden display against Russia's Alisa Kleybanova in the second round saw her well beaten 6-3, 6-0.

Ana Ivanovic has failed to hit the heights she reached at Roland Garros in 2007.
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Ana Ivanovic is so superstitious when it comes to tennis that she refuses to walk on the lines of the courts at Roland Garros. Two years on since her French Open final victory over Dinara Safina, however, and it could be comfortably deemed more appropriate for the Serbian to step on every line possible. Twice. For surely, the 22-year-old must do something - anything at all - to break the dreadful and disastrous run of defeats she has endured throughout the past two years?

Yesterday's dismal, error-ridden display against Russia's Alisa Kleybanova in the second round saw her well beaten 6-3, 6-0, but the most saddening statistic was that in the second set Ivanovic had break points on every one of her opponent's service games. She failed to take advantage; the belief having evidently been drained from her with more force than the rain which lashed against Court One for four-and-a-half hours beforehand.

There were tears when the then-20-year-old lifted the French Open trophy - her first and thus far only major title - and few would be surprised if Ivanovic was weeping once more in Paris last night. Her fall from grace has been cataclysmic. Following her victory at Roland Garros, much was expected of her as she approached Wimbledon the following month as the world's top-ranked player. The action at the All-England Club, though, did not unfurl as expected. The No 1 seed toiled for three hours and 24 minutes to progress past Nathalie Dechy, the French veteran, in the first round before slumping 6-1, 6-4 to Zheng Jie, the Chinese wildcard. It was the shock of the tournament and Ivanovic has never fully recovered.

She has managed just two finals in two years - first in Linz where she beat Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-1 and then the following year at Indian Wells where she lost to the same opponent 7-6 (5), 6-2. In grand slams, she has failed to progress past the fourth round since her victory in Paris. When you consider in the four majors directly preceding her triumph she had managed two finals (the French and the Australian) and a semi-final (Wimbledon) the only logical explanation for a young, talented woman to fail so drastically must be psychological.

And so when Ivanovic appeared at Roland Garros earlier this week exuding confidence and billing the iconic venue as the perfect location for a revival of some long-awaited joie de vivre, it was not unnerving to believe her. She had begun her career playing on clay courts and has a fond relationship with the French tournament that dates back to 2005 when, aged just 17, she beat Amelie Mauresmo, the home favourite, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

But it was never going to be easy. In 2008, she was touted as the future of women's tennis and a natural heir to the injured Maria Sharapova; this week her quest for success was made all the more difficult by the fact that, now ranked a lowly No 42 in the world, she arrived unseeded. And yesterday, much like last year when she slumped to Victoria Azarenka in the round of 16, for all her pre-game poise, she failed to turn up. Her error-strewn serve - including a pair of double faults in the crucial sixth game of the first set - and her battling instincts, which once served her so well, were as invisible as Venus Williams's on-court underwear.

It is unlikely Ana Ivanovic will disappear from the limelight, but the superstitious Serbian needs to stop fluffing her lines and not worry about stepping on them. gmeenaghan@thenational.ae