When Ana Ivanovic entered the quarterfinals of this year’s 2012 US Open, it marked a historical moment for the Serbian star as it was the first time she had reached the final eight of a Major since winning Roland Garros back in 2008.
That fact alone punctuates what has been for Ivanovic a self-described “roller coaster” of a journey that saw her win the title in Paris, become No. 1 in the world and then suffer a well-documented fall almost out of the top 100 that had some wondering if she would ever return to the top 20 again.
“You know, there were some good moments and some tough ones, but it’s a process,” said Ivanovic after her fourth round win. “I understand it better now. There are times when you realize that it’s exactly what it is: it’s a process. You can’t have everything at the same time. You have to, you know, be consistent on practice courts and then in the matches. I felt I had that this year. I have been quite consistent at times. I put myself lots of times in opportunities for the big matches and the big wins, and I never managed to do that. You know, now I have another chance, and I really hope I can pull it together this time.”
When asked if she had known back in 2008 that it would take her four years to reach her second Major quarterfinal what she might have done, Ivanovic just laughed and said, “Take a four years holiday.”
Ivanovic, who now has the difficult task of trying to stop Serena Williams next, occupies an odd place in the sport right now. Despite her good natured persona, she still rubs some tennis fans the wrong way, especially with her almost incessant need to fist pump on every winning point and that service toss that is never quite in the same place. Very few are neutral when it comes to Ivanovic — either you block out time to watch her matches or you make it a point to avoid them all together.
Unless Ivanovic pulls off a massive upset in New York, she will have to take comfort in her run to the quarters and also having one of her better seasons of late, a season that has almost pushed her back into the top ten again.
“Beginning or sort of the starting of the year in Indian Wells I felt I was also playing quite well, and then through clay court season, as well,” said Ivanovic reflecting on her year that has seen her deal with a few injuries as well. “But it was still lots of up and downs. Now I sort of know the things I’m doing well and I know I’m in the right path and I believe in it a little bit more. I think that confidence is sort of coming from that. So, putting it all together, I imagine I’m probably playing the best I have played this year.”
But what exactly is Ivanovic’s place within the tour itself? She is still a marquee name that many fans want to see but she hasn’t been a contender for a Major in years and unless she suddenly takes her game to another level, probably won’t be next year either. She’s had some close matches this year with the likes of Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, but you never got the sense that she would win them. She’ll have to try to next year and then some if she wants a real shot at reaching the top ten or even another Major. It could all change for her, but as she approaches 25 at the end of the year, it may be that Ivanovic is at the point in her career that she will have to find that next level or else risk being stuck in a place of being viewed as somewhat relevant on tour despite being one of the few active players to have won a Major.
Ivanovic understands that since winning her first Major and becoming one of the sport’s most recognized faces that her career is still a process, something that she enjoys thinking and planning about. Whether this U.S. Open is the start of a new phase for Ivanovic is still unclear but what remains certain is that Ivanovic will probably have a few more ups and downs as she continues to carve out her place on the tour and eventually in history of the sport itself.