Interview Insights – Ana Ivanovic at US Open 2009

Ana Ivanovic lost in the first round of the US Open 2009 against Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 3-6, 6-7.

It’s interesting to see how much Ana actually knows about the mental game and how it’s not really about learning more about the mental game but how difficult it is to implement and use what you know.

Q. What’s difficult about the toss, anyway? Seems not to be a difficult part of the game.

ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, serve should be the easiest part, because the only shot you control completely. Yeah, it’s – I think it just – it’s very hard to describe, because what happens is that sometimes when I toss, I either release too early or I flick it and I release too late. It’s just so hard to describe. It’s like, you know, I tried also to do exercises with heavier ball so I get more feel for it. I mean now it’s feeling better so I worked on that.

Ana says that the serve should be the easiest part but that belief (that the serve is the easiest) can set you up for many frustrating moments.

It obviously isn’t that easy if she has problems with the toss (she also explains that even a small mistake in timing creates a poor toss!) – and she is obviously extremely talented. Venus Williams often has to toss a few times and so does Dinara Safina.

I wouldn’t create any judgments on how difficult the toss is; whether it’s easy or difficult. Whatever you choose, you can set up yourself for frustration.

It’s better to just look at the toss in non-judgmental way and work on it if it’s not there without any “shoulds” in your mind. You’ll progress in the fastest way…

Q. Is it maybe the mind fighting the instincts? (following Ana’s answer: “I just feel that my mind and my body and everything, it’s not on the same level. I was really fighting.”

ANA IVANOVIC: It is that, you know, a little bit, too. When I follow my instincts, I play great. Then I think I can make other shots and I feel maybe I should go different, different direction. That’s when bad shot selection comes. That’s just, you know, mind and emotions.

Ana knows exactly right that she needs to trust her instincts and play what comes first on her mind but she then changes her mind and the errors happen.

Why does Ana change her mind and doesn’t trust her instincts?

I think that because she was corrected too many times and it’s either her coach or team of herself that look for too much perfection in everything she does.

And once you try to correct every mistake, you set up yourself for constant doubt and hesitation. The end result is of course very poor – the player is now making even more errors.

The key is to accept the imperfections of human mind and body and accept unforced errors as a part of the game. Sure, you can analyze and make corrections but there needs to be a healthy balance to it.

It seems to me that Ana has been over analytical and not accepting her mistakes or occasional bad days as a part of being an imperfect human being. Because when you accept them there’s peace again in your mind and it’s only then that it’s possible to enter the zone and play best tennis.

Q. I remember one moment you win the French Open and they tell you you’re No. 1 and you say, I didn’t even know that. Is it maybe that suddenly the mind came in and resisted to move from there and the instinct went down, maybe?

ANA IVANOVIC: It’s hard to say. Maybe. But, yeah, I don’t really know. I think it’s just that when I start to when I start to not maybe have the results that’s expected I was going to have, that’s when my mind games play.

That’s when I started to think and analyze about everything that’s been happening and trying to, you know, fix something that maybe it wasn’t broken. It was just, you know, not there for a while. And I had to keep doing the same thing.

But I tried to go different directions and tried to search for it elsewhere. And that’s when I feel like I went on a little, forcing, trying to change technique and some kind of areas of my game that were not necessary to do so.

The key insight that Ana shares here is this: “That’s when I started to think and analyze about everything that’s been happening and trying to, you know, fix something that maybe it wasn’t broken.”

Ana says it all: being too analytical will make you find mistakes which theoretically exist but are not correctable in reality – exactly because of the imperfection of human beings.

Q. There are so many highs and lows in that match. How do you keep your emotions in check in a match like that?

ANA IVANOVIC: Oh, did I? I didn’t think I did. They were all over the place.

Q. What do you tell yourself to keep them in check, anyway?

ANA IVANOVIC: I try to breathe. Yeah, I try to take a deep breath and just, you know, try to maybe, you know, walk, just play with the strings or fix the hair or something. Try to, yeah, focus.

Just a few important ideas on how to refocus and get your activation back to the ideal level – very important but can easily be overlooked!

Related posts:

What Ana Ivanovic Learned From French Open Loss
Interview Insights – Kim Clijsters at Australian Open 2010
Tennis Serve Toss Expectations And The Reality Of It
Interview Insights – Juan Martin Del Potro at US Open 2009
How To Deal With Negative Opinions About Us

Essential Tennis Instruction – FREE Video Lessons on How to Improve Your Serve

This entry was posted on Friday, September 4th, 2009 at 6:42 am and is filed under Ana Ivanovic, Interview Insights, US Open. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.