Can This Power Serb Play the Role of Spoiler?

Wait one second: What’s this? Is the Power Serb back? Ana Ivanovic played on Ashe today and defeated Australian Open semifinalist Jie Zheng in straight sets. Ivanovic is going to the third round. This also means this is the farthest she’s gotten at a U.S. Open since 2007 (she was bounced in the second round two years ago, and the first round last year).

Ivanovic, the former no. 1 player in the world and Observer cover girl in 2007, has tumbled all the way to no. 40 in the rankings. Her problem? Her head. The pressure.

The talent is there, and to listen to her now, you’re starting to believe in her.

“I feel like I’m playing like a top 10 player and I have confidence that I can beat these players,” she said. “That’s huge for me.”

That’s a big statement, and she’ll need that confidence too.

Her potential opponent in the third round is the Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli, a feisty player with the exact opposite situation as Ivanovic: She is limited by her body, but she’s mentally tough. Ivanovic’s potential fourth round opponent? Kim Clijsters.

With the way she’s playing, it might be a stretch to say she’s a contender again (then again, who isn’t a contender on the women’s side at the Open?) but you’re starting to believe she could knock off a couple players in the draw.

“I see myself as two different persons,” she said, right before the Serbian began her knack for speaking in run-on sentences. “Once you’re actually coming up and you have no expectations, you are hungry for success, and you really don’t know what the stakes are, you just go for it, you have no fear, you play freely against anyone you come up against.”

Then, she said, once you get a French Open title and a no. 1 ranking you do feel it. “That creates some doubts and obviously pressure.”

But now?

“Now I feel, you know, as I am just coming up again, and I have really nothing to lose. I got that joy of competing again.”




Can This Power Serb Play the Role of Spoiler?