BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: Serbian tennis star Ana Ivanovic believes early bird gets the worm.
The 2008 French Open champion has arrived in Doha for this week’s $2.5m Qatar Open five days in advance in hope of lifting her maiden trophy in the Middle East.
Revelling in a scintillating start to the 2014 season, Ivanovic says she wants to build on her title win in Auckland at the start of January which followed a semi-final loss at the Australian Open.
“I wanted to come early to adjust to the time difference. I know that the courts and the balls are different so I really enjoyed my time in training here,” Ivanovic said at the draw ceremony for this week’s Qatar Open.
“I just want to play the best tennis and do well at top championships and that is really something I want to achieve,” the 26-year-old said.
“I am really happy with the way my year has started,” Ivanovic said.
“Winning a title after a while was a good thing. It was a lot of hard work,” the Serbian, who is not seeded in Doha, added.
With world number one Serena Williams of the US and defending champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus skipping the Doha leg with injuries, fans feel Ivanovic could have a smooth sailing in the Qatari capital the next six days.
However, the Serbian feels a bit different.
“Many people say that (that she’s the favourite to win in Doha), but I don’t look at it that way,” Ivanovic said.
“You want to beat the best. It is unfortunate that Serena is not here but the draw is pretty strong. We are all trying to do our best we can,” she added.
Ivanovic said she was targeting Grand Slams and wins at top events to complete her resurrection after slipping in the world rankings (she dropped to 65 in July 2010).
Currently ranked number 12, Ivanovic ended 2013 season at number 16 and without a trophy.
“Oh yes, that (doing well at Grand Slams) is something definitely on the radar and that is something I want to do,” Ivanovic said.
“I was a bit sad after losing in the semis once I beat Serena at Australian Open but I still made some huge steps and I got the confidence for the next one,” the Serbian added.
“You just take one step at a time and work hard. That doesn’t mean you have to perform well (all the time). I just didn’t think about the match. I just took one step at a time,” Ivanovic said about her time in Australia last month.
“I always had a feeling that I had a game to do well so I really hope I can go far,” she said.
About her first-round clash against Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, Ivanovic said: “We have known each other for a long time. It will be a fun match and a very good game, I am sure.”
She added: “It is really a tough first-round match. But I look forward to the challenge. So it is going to be fun.”
When asked if it was nerve-wrecking watching the draws being made by WTA Tour officials, Ivanovic said.
“Not really. We just look at these things on a week-to-week basis. You always get to see the matches so you know the players.”
If all goes well, Ivanovic could well bump into Australian Open champion and the top seed Li Na in the third round at the Tier I event.
Other top seeded players in Doha include Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, Italy’s Sara Errani, Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, Angelique Kerber of Germany, Simona Halep of Romania and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.
The winner in Doha gets $441,00 while the losing finalist goes home $220,200 richer.
The losing semi-finalists pocket $110,100 each.