Tennis: Ana aims at return to the top

By Niall Anderson

Ivanovic eyes Auckland as test for shot at elite echelon with improved consistency.
Ana Ivanovic is focusing on stringing together consistent results, starting in Auckland. Photo / AP
Ana Ivanovic is focusing on stringing together consistent results, starting in Auckland. Photo / AP

Ana Ivanovic is aiming to be a more consistent player in 2016, and maintaining her perfect record in Auckland would be the ideal way to start.

The 2008 French Open winner was earmarked to be one of the dominant players in women's tennis after making her Grand Slam breakthrough aged 20 but she hasn't won another Slam since.

Stringing together consistent results has been a constant issue, and with that in mind, a return to the court where she triumphed in 2014 could be a wise decision to kick-start a rise back to the elite echelon.

"I have great memories from this tournament and I hope I can repeat that success and get a few matches under my belt," said the 28-year-old.

"I think my fitness, movement on the court and inconsistency - that's sort of connected and I worked a lot on that during the off-season. I worked a lot in the gym and also on the court, so I'm really looking forward to improving that during my matches and competitions."

There can be parallels drawn between Ivanovic's Auckland stint in 2014 and this year's tournament. On both occasions, Ivanovic arrived in Auckland ranked 16th in the world and as the second seed, after failing to win a WTA title the season before.

A chance to repeat her 2014 success at Auckland, where she holds a 100 per cent winning record, could be a valuable beginning to her 14th year on tour, with 2014 being one of the best. She made six finals, winning four, and momentarily moved back into the world's top five.

Although she reached last year's French Open semifinals - her first at a Grand Slam since 2008 - Ivanovic couldn't get past the second round in the other three Slams, highlighting the frustrating lack of consistency which has plagued her game.

With that now in the past, Ivanovic is looking to start 2016 in a place which holds fond on-court memories, and believes improvements made in the off-season could aid her back to her former lofty heights.

Ivanovic has focused on her serve as another important facet to improve after she finished sixth on the WTA Tour in double faults last year, racking up 235 in just 47 matches.

"I worked a lot in the off-season on my movement and also my serves so hopefully I can bring that together on a match court.

"Making my serve a little bit more of a weapon - I feel very confident on the practice court so hopefully I can put it together."

Ivanovic is facing a qualifier in the first round and has the likes of young American prospect Sloane Stephens and former world No1 Caroline Wozniacki on her side of the draw.

If she can get through that unscathed, it could forecast the start of another rise up the rankings for the Serbian star.

For live commentary from the ASB Classic, listen to Radio Sport.

- NZ Herald

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