We caught Ana Ivanovic at a practice session in August, just before the start of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati 2012. I loved the elegance of her service motion captured in this photo, and the fact that her ball toss is so high it isn’t even in frame. The Serbian player is a bit infamous for that toss, since it never seems to fly up the same way twice. Under normal conditions this doesn’t necessarily affect her play, but on a windy day it can be quite the challenge.
After taking these weekend photos, we naturally were confused when we didn’t see Ana anywhere on the schedule. Did we hallucinate seeing her at practice? Horror of horrors, did we turn into one of those peeps we grumble about, and misidentify the player we took photos of?
No, it turns out a troublesome foot injury forced Ana to take the week off and miss the tourney she’d planned to play. “I’m very sorry to have to withdraw from this event,” she told the press at the time. “It kind of turned my season around two years ago and I was hoping to draw on those positive experiences this week.”
Looking back, Ana was dealing with a pretty dismal year in 2010, with a lot of early round exits, until she finally made the semis in Cincy. She then made it to the R16 at the USO, falling to Kim Clijsters, who was #3 in the world at that time. The Serb then had good results in Beijing and Luxembourg, and won the Linz title and the year-end Tournament of Champions. She definitely ended the year on a much brighter note than expected.
A bit of trivia: As for the Cincy luck, Ana only made it two rounds in 2011, but once again rallied to the R16 at the USO. On the way up, she took out #137, up-and-comer Sloane Stephens at 6-3, 6-4. She then fell to Serena Williams (ranked #27) by the identical scoreline in the very next round.
In 2012? After missing the Cincy tourney, she made it to the USO quarters, her best result at that Slam ever. It was also the highest she’d gotten in a Slam since her win at the French Open in 2008. Incidentally, this time it took three sets to take down now-#44 Sloane Stephens, and the fourth-ranked Serena knocked Ana out of the tourney once again.
Of course, perhaps just practicing in Cincy in ’12 gave Ivanovic the winning power she needed for the USO that year. We’ll have to see what 2013 brings.
PHOTO: c2012 Valerie David at TennisInsideOut.com