Ivanovic ready to retrace her steps

Fit again and under a new coach, Ana Ivanovic says she is ready to recapture the form that led her to the top of the women's rankings.

Ana Ivanovic may have had numerous setbacks last year, but she says she is prepared for a comeback to the top of the women's rankings in 2009.
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DUBAI // The roller coaster ride Ana Ivanovic was forced to endure in the latter half of 2008 may have made the Serbian travel sick but she feels the experience has done her the power of good in her quest to regain her top-of-the-world feeling.

Winning the French Open last June, which brought the coveted spin-off benefit of No 1 ranking, was as good as it got for Ivanovic in 2008. After that incredible peak she went downhill fast to the point that she worried where her next tournament win was coming from. Fortunately Linz in Austria brought her an overdue success in October and, now back to full fitness after a run of bad luck with injuries, she is confident of figuring in the shake-up in this week's Barclays Dubai Championships.

"I have learned a lot about myself and my game during the last few months," said Ivanovic, back to her effervescent best after a traumatic spell in freefall took her from first to eighth on the WTA computer. Ivanovic, preparing for her second round match at the $US2m (Dh7.35m) tournament against Alisa Kleybanova said: "Every top player has to pick herself up at some point in her career. It is not about never falling. It is about rising every time you fall.

"This is something I had to learn. I have to accept that injuries are part of the game and I shouldn't get too worried about them. I have to be more patient with myself in the future and not try to be the perfectionist I have been in the past. "In every career you have your ups and downs and it is a question of dealing with them in the right way. You have to have bad experiences as well as good ones so next time you are in the same position you can make a better decision and better choice.

"You have to accept that certain things are part of the game. You can't change them. You just work around them." Still only 21, Ivanovic admitted to buckling under the strain of fulfilling her joint dreams of winning a grand slam and topping the world rankings in one fell swoop at Roland Garros last summer. "After winning the French Open, playing Wimbledon as the top seed was very hard for me," she reflected. "I was emotionally quite empty. It was frustrating to lose so early in such an important tournament and after that I was injured so I couldn't practise properly for a month. That was so frustrating."

Ivanovic was delighted to declare, however, that her troubles are now behind her. She is relishing the chance to re-establish herself among her sport's elite, even though to do so may involve having to overcome the Williams sisters on the way to Saturday's final. "I'm not looking that far ahead just yet," she said, after being quizzed about a possible quarter-final date with the new Australian Open champion Serena and then a semi-final against the five-time Wimbledon champion Venus.

"But I rate my chances here pretty highly. I have been practising well and I feel that I have my aggressive game back. I have a new coach [Craig Kardon] and we have firm view of how my game should develop which direction my game is going to go." @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae