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The Not So Unexpected Retirement of Ana Ivanovic

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by Andree Wallace

There was no big press conference or hundreds of photographers as one of the biggest forehands announced her departure. “I can no longer perform up to my own standards.” These words sum up the career of one of tennis’ most marketable athletes.

Born in Belgrade to father who is a business man and a mother who was a lawyer, Ivanovic became interested in tennis when watching fellow Yugoslav, Monica Seles compete on television. She memorized the telephone number of a local tennis clinic and began her lessons at the age of five.

During the NATO bombings, she was forced to continue her lessons in an abandoned swimming pool. The sides of the swimming pool were so narrow that hitting a backhand crosscourt was virtually impossible. By the age of 13 she convinced her parents to let her train in Switzerland, where facilities and coaching was much more advanced.

Her mother accompanied her to Basel and for a short time, they lived with Dan Holzmann, the man who would become Ivanovic’s longtime manager. Her first title came in 2005 when she won the Canberra International by defeating Hungarian, Melinda Czink in the final.

Her ranking quickly rose and by the end of the year, she was ranked 16th in the world. Her ferocious forehand and steely determination caused many of the top names to notice the young pretender. The previous season, she had pushed Venus Williams to two tiebreak sets and looked comfortable competing against the power of the legend.

The 2006 season marked her big breakthrough, which came at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. She defeated former world number 1 and comeback star of the season, Martina Hingis in a highly competitive final. The power game of Ivanovic left Hingis with no answers.

This title run allowed her clinch the US Open series. The 2007 season witnessed the arrival of Ivanovic on the grand slam level as she stormed her way to the French Open final. An utter dismantling of Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals left many wondering if the Serbian could upset the Queen of Clay, Justine Henin.

It was not meant to be as an erratic service toss and forehand errors cost Ivanovic the match. This season also marked her debut at the season ending championship, where she lost in the semi-finals to Henin. 2008 is the season where all of the hard work and sacrifices came together.

After another major final loss to Sharapova at the Australian Open, Ivanovic finally claimed her maiden and only major title at the French Open. Henin announced her retirement right before the clay court season began, which left the Roland Garros crown open.

And with that effective retirement of the world number 1, Ivanovic’s victory propelled her to the top of the rankings. She would hold onto the ranking for 12 weeks in total. However, as quickly as her rise seemed to happen, her fall down the rankings also came out of the blue.

With the pressures and expectations of the word number 1 ranking, Ivanovic buckled and her already shaky serve became a barometer for her nerve level. The next couple of seasons witnessed the best and worst of Ivanovic as she feel outside of the top 20 just to regain her form for a few tournaments.

This trend continued until the Serb made her first major semi-final in over 7 years at the French Open in 2015. A stunning loss to Lucie Safarova marked Ivanovic’s last challenge for a major title. The 2016 season was marked with many stops and starts, as the Serbian star could not manage to string together consecutive tournament efforts.

In all, Ivanovic only won 15 matches throughout the entire season. With so few matches, many commentators, notably Pam Shriver inferred that retirement may be in the Serbian’s future. Ivanovic to the average tennis viewer would be seen as a one slam wonder but in fact she was a lot more.

Ivanovic was the first player from her country to assume the number 1 ranking and in addition to her French Open title, managed to make two other finals. While the achievements of her compatriot, Novak Djokovic may have overshadowed hers, Ivanovic will be remembered for her smile, fighting spirit and incredible forehand.

She came from a country where tennis was incredibly underappreciated and has now influenced many boys and girls to pick up a racket. .

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