Dubai: When Dubai Duty Free, the title sponsor of the region's tennis extravaganza, decided to name Ana Ivanovic as one of their global brand ambassadors, they obviously knew what they were doing. True, she may have fallen from the lofty heights she achieved in 2008 when she won the French Open and reached No 1 in the world, but her charm and appeal have hardly taken a beating because of that. The stunning 24-year-old Serb understandably has her hands full as she goes about fulfilling sponsors' obligations and signing autographs for kids, but still took time out to speak to XPRESS exclusively on a variety of subjects ranging from the state of women's tennis, her own game and her baffling record in the region.
"Women's tennis is very good at the moment," she said.
"There are lots of players who are good enough to be ranked at the top, but what women's tennis desperately needs is a rivalry, a strong one between two top players, something that has been lacking for quite some time."
The Serb is also of the opinion that something needs to be done to the tennis calendar as players are still playing too many tournaments. "The women's calendar is still very tight despite us having a longer off season than the men and I know the men are trying desperately to lengthen their off season but that is one thing I'd like to see being done," she said.
Currently ranked 18 in the world, Ivanovic, who defended her Tournament of Champions title in Bali at the end of last year, believes she still needs to make improvements to her game if she is to again challenge for the top. "My serve really needs to improve. It's an integral part of my game. I have improved it a lot, but it's still not there where I want it to be all the time. My game fails when my serve doesn't work," she said.
Middle east blues
Ivanovic, however, was at a loss to explain why she has never been able to perform well in events in the Middle East despite her obvious liking for Doha and especially Dubai. "Every year I come to these events thinking of setting the record straight but then either it's injury or a bad day in office. My form has been on the up again and hopefully I can do well here this time," she said ahead of reaching the quarter-finals.
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, Ivanovic revealed the goals she has set herself. "This is the Olympics year and winning a medal for Serbia would be a dream, especially given that I had to withdraw from the Beijing Olympics in 2008 due to injury. I also hope to finish the year ranked inside the top 10 and try to win a place in the Tour Championship," she said.
As Dubai Duty Free's brand ambassador, Ana Ivanovic will act and star in the "Dubai Duty Free Full of Surprises Travel Show" — a unique short form travel series which will be aired on TV and online — and conduct appearances at sporting events sponsored by Dubai Duty Free