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Ivanovic ends 2010 on a high in Bali


 

Originally published on: 08/11/10 13:27

Ana Ivanovic probably doesn’t want the 2010 season to end right now. The former world No.1, who slumped to No.65 in the WTA Tour rankings in July, has finished the season inside the top 20 after clinching the WTA Tournament of Champions title in Bali with a 6-2 7-6(5) victory over Alisa Kleybanova.

Ivanovic, who reached the summit of the rankings on course to the 2008 Roland Garros title, ends the season ranked No.17 in the world after a strong late summer that will deliver a much-needed confidence boost ahead of the 2011 season.

“There will be some ups and downs until I get to that level where I feel comfortable playing against top players all the time, but I feel very confident about my game and my fitness,” said Ivanovic, who turned 23 during the tournament.

“I feel my game is getting close to where it used to be and I’m even more aggressive, and experience-wise I’m much more mature and a more complete player now.”

Victory at the Tournament of Champions is probably a good indicator of where Ivanovic’s game is right now. The competition brought together those players who had landed WTA International titles during the season but not qualified for the WTA Championships in Doha – a collection of the season’s rising and struggling stars. Ivanovic probably falls into both camps.

After slipping outside of the top 50 in July, Ivanovic bounced back in fine style, reaching the semi-finals in Cincinnati before being forced to retire against Kim Clijsters with injury.

A change of racket and an ugly public exchange with Rogers Cup tournament director Eugene Lapierre, who refused to grant former champ Ivanovic a wildcard before backtracking as the top-ranked players began withdrawing with injuries, followed, but things were starting to look up for the Serb.

A third round appearance at the US Open and an impressive quarter-final run in Beijing were followed by her first title in two years in Linz.

“Having more wins under your belt helps build your confidence, but it’s a long process,” admitted Ivanovic. “At one point I wasn’t really aware of that. I wanted to have results and get back to the top straight away but sometimes it takes longer than you anticipate.”

Becoming No.1 in the world so quickly in her career might have in fact been a hindrance to her game, Ivanovic believes.

“I got to No.1 and I thought, ‘this is great – and I have to play even better to improve.’ I started changing my technique and the way I was working,” she revealed. “It wasn’t good because I had a certain rhythm and I lost that.

“Then a few injuries crept in and then you lose matches you expect to win. That was hard and I took it very personally and was very hard on myself and brought myself down.”

But against Kleybanova, flashes of the old confidence shone through as Ivanovic matched the hard-hitting Russian blow for blow and served well, sealing the victory with her eighth ace of the match.

“She served so well, and even if I had some break points she aced or made a big point,” Kleybanova admitted. And if the serve’s working, there’s no doubting Ivanovic is in the mood.

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