Ana Ivanovic has no regrets over her decision to retire from tennis.
The former French Open champion announced her retirement on the eve of the 2017 season after struggling with injury problems for several years.
Five months on, the 29-year-old is enjoying life away from the tour and has no plans to return, either as a player or coach.
Ivanovic said: “Some people will say I stopped too late. I think everyone feels when it’s the right time for them. And it definitely wasn’t a decision overnight.
“There were so many factors that influenced that decision for me. It’s been now almost six months. I do not regret it. I am very happy where I’m at at the moment, and I’m still learning a lot. I want to improve. I want to share everything I have learned. I think it was the right time for me.
“I do miss it sometimes. It’s never easy. It’s been my whole life. But I really enjoy my time not having to have every day a schedule made for me and having a little bit more freedom. I have been busy. I do miss competition, but I get to travel a little bit on my own terms, which is a little bit different. And I get the chance to walk around, explore, and not have to save my energy for the match days.
“But I still watch a lot and keep in touch with some of my friends on tour.”
Ivanovic was back at the scene of her greatest triumph on Thursday as Roland Garros staged a small ceremony to honour their former champion.
The Serbian looked set for a show-stopping career when she lifted the trophy in Paris in 2008 and rose to world number one but she struggled to deal with the pressure and never hit such heights again.
Ivanovic said: “As I was preparing for today, I really was promising that I will not cry, and it was very hard to hold my tears back. It brought back a lot of emotions, actually. It was so wonderful.
“I do have very special bond with this place and Philippe Chatrier. And to walk on and see my family there, it was very hard but sweet at the same time.”
Ivanovic now lives in Chicago with her husband and Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.
“It’s the first time for me that I kind of settle down somewhere,” she said. “I really like the city. People are super friendly. It’s lovely having the lake there. But the wind, that’s the only thing. It’s not the question if it’s windy or not, it’s a question if it’s sunny or not. The wind is always there. But it’s been really exciting times.”
She is a good friend of her fellow Serb, world No2 Novak Djokovic, and believes it’s only a matter of time before he returns to his very best. Djokovic suffered a hefty straight-sets defeat at the hands of 23-year-old Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals in Paris on Tuesday and will drop out of the top-two for the first time since 2011 when the new rankings are out on Monday.
“I really believe Novak will come back. I think it’s amazing what he’s done, being on top for so long. It’s not easy to maintain that level. It’s maybe a little bit more easier, men’s than women’s, but still I think it’s amazing,” said Ivanovic.
“And sometimes you just need a break. And also, the tour doesn’t really give you that time to sort of reflect and enjoy also the success. Sometimes it takes a little time, but I’m sure he’ll be back.”
It was a point we will all never forget.
Simona Halep blasted one backhand down-the-line, changed direction to fire a forehand down-the-line, then finished off with a backhand down-the-line, sending Elina Svitolina left and right late in the second-set tiebreak.
Sounds like a cool point, big deal! Yes, it actually is a big deal because Halep saved a match point with that insane combination.
Had she missed any of those attempts, she would be out of the tournament. Instead, that match point save helped her complete an unthinkable comeback from 3-6, 1-5 down against Svitolina, as Halep went on to win the match 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-0 and reach her second Roland Garros semi-final.
The best part of it all is that Halep didn’t even notice she was saving a match point.
“I didn’t realise. I watched after, when I was stretching, on Twitter a little bit. And the backhand down-the-line at match point, I was, like, was match point for her? And I didn’t realise during the match,” admitted the world No4 during her press conference.
That is just unbelievable and explains a lot. Maybe they should hide the scoreboard from Halep during all her matches then.
Asked how she turned the match around after falling behind with such a huge deficit, the Romanian 2014 runner-up said: “My ball was not going as long as I wanted, but she was dominating the match. I just sat down at 5-2. I said that the match is lost. So I did nothing to change something, to change the rhythm, that’s it. It’s over.
“And then I started to feel more relaxed maybe because I thought it’s finished, and I change the rhythm. I put some high balls. I just tried to make her move more, to open the court, and it came. I don’t know how, but it was really good.”
She now faces No2 seed Karolina Pliskova, who has been surprising herself and everyone for that matter by making it this far on a surface she doesn’t like and playing less than ideal tennis. Before 2017, Pliskova had only won two main draw matches at Roland Garros. Now she’s in the semi-finals and she and Halep can fight for the No1 ranking as well as a spot in the title match.
Here are the possible scenarios:
Here are the highlights from a busy day 11 at Roland Garros…
Let's not forget Halep changing directions down the line three times in a row on match point anytime soon. pic.twitter.com/dn68GL32JR— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) June 7, 2017
“The world is not spinning only around me. I’m grateful for the attention, but there are many other players that deserve that, as well.”
— Novak Djokovic after his straight-sets loss to Dominic Thiem
“Coming into this tournament, there were a few people who told me, ‘You have to be in the final to be No1’. I was, like, ‘there is no chance I make final here’.”
— Pliskova, who is now one match win away from the world No1 ranking
“I told him, ‘Don’t hit me, because everyone is watching’.”
— Halep on her conversation with Ion Tiriac after winning her quarter-final by saving a match point
1 – Thiem claimed his first top-10 win at a Grand Slam with his three-set drubbing of Djokovic on Wednesday.
2 – This was just the second time Djokovic has been bageled in the final set in 985 career matches.
325 – consecutive weeks Djokovic has been ranked inside the top-two in the world. He will drop out of top-two on Monday for the first time since March 2011.
Feast your eyes on these stats to preview the women’s semi-finals:
A short while after Jelena Ostapenko reached her maiden Grand Slam semi-final with a win over Caroline Wozniacki at Roland Garros on Tuesday, ex-Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli went to congratulate the Latvian teenager’s coach Anabel Medina. She hugged her while calling her, “Trainer of the year”.
Bartoli is not wrong.
Medina and Ostapenko, who turns 20 on Thursday, only began working together at the start of the clay season in Stuttgart, end of April, and the Spanish ex-world No16 has already helped guide the talented youngster to her first Major semi-final.
Clay is not Ostapenko’s favourite surface but with Medina, the aggressive youngster has managed to accumulate a 14-3 win-loss record (including qualifying) so far on the red dirt.
Ostapenko, who was the Wimbledon junior champion in 2014, lost in the opening round at all four Slams last year but is now one of the last four women standing at Roland Garros, where she is making only her second main draw appearance.
Her win over Wozniacki on a rainy, windy Tuesday in Paris has made her the first Latvian woman to ever reach a Grand Slam semi-final and she will take on No30 seed Timea Bacsinszky on Thursday for a place in the final.
Ostapenko, ranked No47 in the world, is a force of nature on court. She is erratic, explosive, and tough to handle when she is on top of her game. So far this fortnight, she has fired a total of 195 winners across five matches.
She has a lot of power and Medina says harnessing it has been one of the first things they’ve worked on together.
The pair first teamed up in the preseason of 2015. They share the same agent – Ugo Colombini – who suggested Ostapenko go to Valencia for a couple of weeks to train with Medina.
They couldn’t continue because Medina was still playing doubles on tour and Ostapenko needed someone full-time but a shoulder injury that stopped the Spaniard from competing led to another brief stint together in the Asian swing last fall.
After Asia, Ostapenko got back to training with her mother, Jeļena Jakovļeva, but when she saw Medina helping Silvia Soler Espinosa in Dubai and Doha last February, she asked her if she could help her during the clay season.
“I think it works because she likes to work with women because she’s been working with her mother and her fitness coach is also a woman,” Medina, a former world No3 in doubles, told Sport360.
“She’s very talented but I think she needed to be a little more organised on the court because she was playing too much free.
“I tried to tell her a little bit ‘okay if you’re in this situation maybe it’s better to do this way’. But of course I didn’t touch anything in her game because she’s playing very aggressive and she has to keep doing this because that’s the modern tennis being played right now.
“But yes a little bit organised, working a little bit with the serve. I’m very very very happy because I feel that she listens to me a lot and that she believes what we’re talking about. That makes me feel, as a coach, very happy, because sometimes you cannot reach the player but with her, since we started in Stuttgart, she has started to know me much better and has got more confidence (in me).”
Ostapenko is someone who exudes youth and enthusiasm. She grew up taking dance classes and took part in ballroom dancing competitions and says she still practices just for fun.
Her favourite dance? “The Samba,” she says with a laugh because she likes the songs suitable for it.
Her dance background can explain her swift footwork on an incredibly windy day in Paris on Tuesday. It sure comes in handy.
She is the youngest to reach the semi-finals at the French Open in a decade and while she is the least experienced of all the semi-finalists taking to the court on Thursday, Medina believes Ostapenko’s youth can also be an advantage.
“Of course everybody says that when you are young you aren’t thinking too much, in this case for her for sure it helps because she’s like more free,” said the 34-year-old Medina. “During one of the rain delays (on Tuesday) she said ‘I’m young, I have nothing to lose, I have a lot of Roland Garros to play so I’m going to play free’ and that’s a very good mentality that she thinks that and just goes on the court and just plays free.
“I think she’s got a little bit of advantage in this case.”
After playing mix with me I think Ostapenko was hit by the #lendleffect— Bruno Soares (@BrunoSoares82) June 7, 2017
Ostapenko speaks in bite-sized answers but there’s a big, fun personality hiding behind her curt responses in press conferences.
She’s the second-youngest player in the top 47 and believes we could be witnessing a changing of the guard soon in the women’s game.
“Our year, 1997, is pretty strong because we have a lot of players in top 100 and top 50, as well. So I think it’s maybe kind of new generation,” says Ostapenko, who is yet to win a title but made the Charleston final on green clay in April and has made two previous finals in Doha and Quebec City over the last two years.
Medina says it’s surprising Ostapenko has had her first Grand Slam breakthrough on the clay of Roland Garros but that her charge has been training with the mindset of making deep runs at the Majors in general.
“Of course when I came here I didn’t expect I’m going to be in the semis, but I was playing better and better every match. So I think if I keep it up, I think anything can happen,” says Ostapenko, who took out No11 seed Wozniacki, former runner-up Sam Stosur and Olympic champion Monica Puig en route to the semis. .
Ostapenko and her semi-final opponent, Bacsinszky, will both be celebrating their birthdays on Thursday in a funny yet bizarre coincidence. The Swiss No30 seed is eight years older.
It will be their first match against one another with Bacsinszky having experience on her side with this being her second Roland Garros semi-final in three years.
Medina believes in Ostapenko’s chances though.
“I think everybody knows that she has this talent and that she could be in these rounds at a Grand Slam. Maybe it came very early, or maybe not, but I think she worked to be in the semi-finals – she didn’t have any retirements, she was one set down against some opponents, she fought hard to be in the semi-finals every match, so I think she deserves this. And she has the mentality to go for it,” said the Spanish coach.
Medina, who reached the fourth round at Roland Garros in singles in 2007 and won the title twice in doubles in 2008 and 2009, is enjoying her life as a coach so far.
“I think when I was playing I was the kind of player who was very nervous, I suffered a lot, and I couldn’t do my best tennis because of the tension,” she confessed.
“So I think the difference now as a coach is that being outside of the court, is that you can see everything like more open and you see things much more clearly than when you are on the court. So I think I can help a player a lot because of this open view. I’m really enjoying it. I’m a rookie (smiles) but I’m enjoying it.”
She maybe a “rookie” but she’s having one of the best possible rookie starts anyone could hope for.
Medina and Ostapenko are yet to discuss their partnership post-Roland Garros but it’s fair to expect the Latvian would want to continue.