Former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic's career has struggled at times since she won her only Grand Slam title in Paris in 2008. She sat down with R-Sport to discuss her battles with pre-match nerves and fitness problems and her desire to win Serbia its first Fed Cup title.
How are you feeling ahead of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow?
"I still have a few days to adjust, but it's actually just hard to get time on a court [for practice]. Once you get it, it's good."
You could run into Nadia Petrova in the quarterfinals, and she's on a good run after winning in Tokyo. Are you at all frightened of her?
"Yeah, it's a tough draw, you know. Especially in these tournaments, it's always small draws and you run into good players very, very early in the rounds. I just want to try and enjoy it. It's the last tournament of the year, and just take it easy and try to relax and have fun."
How are you feeling at the end of the season? In terms of fitness, have you had any thoughts of sacrificing the Kremlin Cup to stay in shape for the Fed Cup final with the Czech Republic?
"I feel pretty good health-wise, so hopefully it stays that way. Obviously it's a big goal for us, the Fed Cup and obviously it's two weeks away, it's only the weekend, so it's plenty of time to recover and still practice and get ready for those two matches."
What in your game are you hoping to change for next season?
"It's fitness that's going to be the most important because I feel there's been a lot of ups and downs in that area this year, so once I get that base happening, I can start the year well hopefully and keep the level up."
You've spoken in the past about your problems with confidence and consistency. How do you fight those problems?
"Before every match you play you have nerves and you are nervous a little bit, but it's good in a way because sometimes when you lack those nerves you don't perform well. You're quite flat. Sometimes it's overwhelming. You have to find the balance to breathe through it, but it comes with confidence. Once you're confident, it's easier to deal with everything, so it's a big thing I have to work for for the big matches against the top players."
After winning Roland Garros in 2008, you didn't reach the quarterfinals of another Grand Slam until the U.S. Open last month. How does it feel to get rid of that unwanted record?
"It was like a monkey off my shoulder. It was a huge step for me to get to the quarterfinals and just to prove to myself that I can be there and I actually belong there when I do things the way it should be done. It gives me confidence and it's the incentive for next year."
Does that motivate you for the Fed Cup too?
"It does give confidence. And it's a huge week and would be great to win it and finish the season on a high."
Winning the Fed Cup for the first time would be huge for tennis-mad Serbia. How are you coping with the pressure?
"It is different playing for a Fed Cup team than playing for yourself. I mean, you always play for your country but it's different because if you do well, it's for the team, and if you don't, you sort of feel like you let the team down. So definitely there is more nerves involved, but I played so many times before, so this is no different. It's always going to be tough and it's going to be challenging, but that's what we all enjoy as well, being out there and being challenged."
Do the other girls in the Serbian team give you support you don't get at singles events?
"I think we could get a little more of that, a little more of the team spirit happening, because it's nice to be part of a team because we are always competing on our own. It's such an individual sport. I know lots of family and friends and people from Serbia are going to Prague to watch us play and that's always great."