Friday, November 5, 2010

Searching for Stability

After parting ways with Heinz Gunthardt, the search for a long-term solution continues for Ana.

Ana Ivanovic has been riding a roller coaster in 2010, and just when it looked as if the ride was finally going to be over, it has begun again.

Her decision to part ways with Heinz Gunthardt after less than a year has introduced a few clouds of doubt into the otherwise sunny skies that have been shining on the Ivanovic camp of late.

After sinking to a five-year low in the rankings in June of this year (as low as 65!), Ana showed great resiliency in the face of adversity this summer, and, with the help of her team of Gunthardt and fitness trainer Marija Lojanica, recaptured the winning formula that made her such a lethal opponent in 2008 when she stormed Roland Garros and ascended to the WTA's No. 1 ranking. Things improved so much that Ana had climbed all the way back into the top-30 in October, and now, as she prepares to play the semis against Kimiko Date Krumm in Bali tomorrow, she's knocking on the door of the top-20 again.

Now this.

As amicable as the split with Gunthardt seems to have been, the fact that Ana is now coachless again means that she is at another major crossroads in her career. This summer Ana spoke a lot about how much she enjoyed having stability in her team. She mentioned that the coaching carousel had been weighing on her mind in the past, and that she was thrilled that she was training and playing in a world where she knew what to expect from her team. The emotional availability and stability seemed to enable her game to blossom, and it was hard not to deny that Ana also gained confidence from having a legend of coaching in her corner.

Now that Gunthardt is gone, it's easy to wonder: Will Ana keep up her torrid pace, or is she in for another rough ride?

Confidence is key

One of the other primary buzzwords for Ana was confidence. She talked incessantly about the process of regaining her mojo, and of how she was feeling it more and more, even in matches that she lost. By the end of the summer there was little doubt that Ana was starting to believe in her game a lot more. There's no way to measure how much of a role Gunthardt played in Ana's game both tactically and philosophically, but it's certainly hard not to surmise that he had a very positive effect on Ana.

As Ana moves into yet another phase of her career in 2011, the big question will be: can she find a coach who provides her with the stability she longs for and the confidence she thrives on?

Things seem alright at the moment. Ana just obliterated Russian teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Bali, and there are sure to be a long line of coaches eager to play a role in furthering Ivanovic's return to glory.

But will the right person for the job be in that line? And, will Ivanovic have the wherewithal to choose that person when he or she does emerge?

There's no doubt that Ivanovic has the tools to reach the top of the game again. She's young - turning 23 tomorrow (Nov. 6) - and she possesses a rare and electric power game that simply cannot be taught. In addition to all her natural abilities, she's also shown a maturity this season, a willingness to stare adversity in the face and to rise to the challenge. She could have easily let things get out of hand this summer, when the organizers of the Montreal event not only denied Ivanovic the wildcard that many thought she deserved as a former champion, but they also made some petty comments about her in the process.

To Ivanovic's credit, rather than let the episode drag her spirits down, she went on to have a fantastic summer, and hasn't looked back since.

For Ivanovic, there is a lot riding on this off-season. She needs to find that stability that she longs for, and that she can operate confidently in.

Roller coasters can be a lot of fun, but there comes a point where you just want to get your feet on some solid ground. The sooner this wild ride stops, the better off Ana will be.

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