The next 'it' girl
Ivanovic is something special -- on and off the court
Posted: Saturday September 22, 2007 6:32PM; Updated: Saturday September 22, 2007 6:32PM
There's something about Ana Ivanovic that strangles your attention the moment she steps onto a tennis court. Especially when she saunters towards you in a pink tank top and black shorts prepared to give you a private tennis lesson.
If every educator looked like Ivanovic, it might not be so hard to motivate today's youth to attend classes. Then again, Ivanovic, 19, is just a kid herself; although she is far from your average teenager. She's tennis' next "it" girl.
The French call it je ne sais quoi. Ivanovic calls it being herself. Whatever you want to call it, Ivanovic has all the makings of being the sport's next Maria Sharapova, both on and off the court. While she may have been born into a body that would make many models jealous, the sixth-ranked player in the WTA certainly wasn't born into an environment that would make anyone envious.
"It was pretty hard," says Ivanovic, who grew up in Serbia during the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia in 1999. "It was so scary, I never knew what to expect."
Ivanaovic would train in the morning to avoid the attacks and be inside by the sundown curfews, making due with whatever facilities were available, even training in an abandoned swimming pool during the winter. "My parents never wanted to put too much stress on me and my brother, or talk too much politics about it, but we knew what was happening around us," she says. "They really tried to keep it on the low and we tried to live as normal as possible."
She can still vividly recall being cooped up in the basement of her home when she was 11 and hearing bombs blast around her as she huddled with her family, waiting for the load noises to stop. "It was scary," she says. "I remember the first night we went into the cellar and the bombs exploded so close to our place that we could feel the windows shaking."
There is a surprising sweetness in Ivanovic's voice as she talks about her fears growing up in a war-torn country. She smiles and pauses in between sentences, searching for just the right words in English that are racing through her mind in her native Serbian tongue. "Looking back, I think we did really well with it," she says. "I can talk about it now but if we talked more about it [then], we would have had more stress. People on TV or on the news were talking about the war all the time so going on the tennis court and just trying to forget about it was a way out for us."