A Look Back On 2012 And A Sneak Peek At 2013

It has been a while since I lasted posted here. Nearly, three months to be exact. With the new season just a week away, here is my review of the 2012 season with a few thoughts on it. While we’re at it, I will also quickly discuss what I will be looking for in 2013. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, lets take a look at the five best and worst things regarding Ana Ivanovic’s 2012 season.

The Five Best Things About 2012

1) The Slams: This was easily Ana Ivanovic’s best season at the slams since 2008. Ivanovic finished the year with a 12-4 record at the majors, a significant improvement over her paltry 4-4 record from a year ago. In 2012, Ivanovic made the 4th round at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, then capped it all off by reaching the quarterfinals at the US Open. Ana’s quarterfinal run in New York was her first at a slam since winning the French Open back in 2008, ending a drought of 17 consecutive slams without a quarterfinal appearance.

Ivanovic avoided the upset bug that had stricken her so many times in the past. Her four losses at the slams this season came to Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams, all whom which finished the year ranked inside the top eight. Contrast this to previous years losses to the likes of Johanna Larsson, Ekaterina Makarova, Petra Cetkovska, Gisela Dulko, Kateryna Bondarenko, Julie Coin and, well…you get the picture. Ivanovic played to her ranking/seeding at the slams this season rather than losing to players ranked below her.

However, I think it would be a mistake to take these slam results as a sign that Ivanovic is on her way back to being a contender again next season. Ivanovic only defeated one seeded player at the slams in 2012 and that was Julia Goerges (22) at Wimbledon. Ivanovic got to the US Open quarters in large part because her draw fell apart. She wasn’t able to come up with a win over anyone ranked ahead of her in any of the four slams. Ana showed that she is a top 15 player, but nothing more, at least at this point. Nonetheless, this is still progress. Ana’s draw broke her way on numerous occasions in the past, and she failed to take advantage of it. This time she did, and she deserves credit for.

2) Year End Ranking: Ana Ivanovic finished 2012 ranked 13th, her highest year end ranking since the 2008 season. It’s nine spots better than where she was at the end of 2011 (22). You can thank her progress at the slams as the reason for this ranking jump.

Despite the improvement in her ranking, Ana was still unable to crack the top 10 at any point this season, even though she had plenty of opportunities to do so. Ana currently sits 865 points and three places behind Caroline Wozniacki for the #10 spot. However, she has 4th round and semifinal points to defend at the Australian Open and Indian Wells respectively, so unless Ana has a phenomenal start to the 2013 season, don’t expect to see her inside the top 10 any time soon. With that being said, Ivanovic is certainly capable of getting there at some point next year. She just needs to be more consistent and pull of a big win or two at a slam. If she does that, she will certainly position herself nicely to get back to the top 10 for the first time since 2009.

3) Success in the desert: Indian Wells was another bright spot in Ana’s season. Ivanovic played perhaps her best tennis of the year at the BNP Paribas Open. En route to the semifinals, Ivanovic defeated Caroline Wozniacki and Marion Bartli, displaying a level of tennis that we haven’t seen much from her over the last few years. The semifinal against Maria Sharapova was a high quality affair that was tightly contested. Unfortunately, it ended with Ana retiring due to a left glute injury. It’s a shame Ana was never able to finish the match because the first set was a really entertaining set of tennis. The following week in Miami, Ana made the 4th round, going down in defeat to Venus Williams. This too was a quality match, with Ana unfortunately coming out on the losing side. Still, March was a really good month for Ana,  far and away her best month of the year.

4) Fed Cup: In recent years, Fed Cup has been somewhat of a nightmare for Ana Ivanovic. Too often, especially while playing at home, the pressure got to her. This year, she was able to get her nerves under control. For the first time ever, Serbia advanced to the finals of Fed Cup, where they ultimately lost to the defending champions, the Czech Republic. That wasn’t before Ana secured her most impressive win of the season by defeating Petra Kvitova on indoor hard courts in Prague 6-3, 7-5. It was a nice way to end what was ultimately another up and down season, and showed that Ana still has what it takes to defeat top ranked players. At least from time to time. Hopefully we will see more of that in 2013.

5) The Olympics: OK, the Olympics probably doesn’t belong here given that it didn’t go quite as well as we or even Ana hoped for. Ivanovic lost to Clijsters in the 3rd round 6-3 6-4 and lost her opening mixed-doubles match with Nenad Zimonjic to Mirza/Paes 6-2, 6-4. So all in all, it really wasn’t that good of a tournament for Ana. However, I put this here because a) I couldn’t think of anything else, b) Just having the opportunity to participate in the Olympics must have been a thrill for Ana after missing out on it in 2008. It was nice to see her get a couple of wins as well.

The Five Worst Things About 2012

1) Bagels: Ana was on the receiving end of four bagels in 2012. This includes a double bagel loss at the hands or Roberta Vinci in Montreal, in what was perhaps Ana’s worst performance of her career. She was nearly double bageled six weeks earlier at Wimbedon, losing to Victoria Azarenka on Center Court 6-1, 6-0. The other bagel came in a loss to Kirsten Flipkens in Linz. Prior to Wimbledon, Ana was only bageled three times throughout her entire professional career. She was bageled four times in the final four months of the season. That has to be a bit concerning.

2) Ana’s Fitness: Another point of concern is Ana’s fitness. Yes, this issue has been discussed ad nauseam by now, but it is an important topic that needs to be addressed. Ana has gotten thinner over the course of the season, and when you compare these pics from the 2010 US Open and this year’s Fed Cup final in November, it is quite alarming. Ana’s game relies on her power, and if you have watched her over the course of this past year, her lack of it has been quite evident at times. I thought Martina Navratilova said it best while commentating on one of Ana’s matches during the US Open for the Tennis Channel, if Ana wants to be a top 10 player again and challenge the game’s best, she needs to bulk up and get stronger. How much Ana improves her fitness in 2013 will go a long way in determining how successful she will be in the new year.

3) Post US Open Struggles: There was hope by many, myself included, that Ana’s first slam quarterfinal in over four years would spur her on to good results in the fall. Unfortunately, the opposite occurred. Ivanovic was a major disappointment after the US Open with early round defeats in Tokyo, Beijing and Linz. She lost to Urszula Radwanska, Romina Oprandi and Kirsten Flipkens. It wasn’t just that she lost these matches, it was how she played in them. Ana was a mess for much of the fall, and while she did play better in Moscow and at Fed Cup, this wasn’t the way Ana wanted to finish the season.

4) No Finals: 2012 was the first time in Ana’s professional career in which she went a full season without reaching the final of any tournament. We are not counting Fed Cup here since it is more of a team oriented event. Ivanovic only made the semis of an event twice this season. The first time was at Indian Wells, the other being at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow where she lost to Samantha Stosur. Though, you have to consider the fact that Ana only needed two wins against players ranked outside the top 150 (Solovieva and Dolonc) to get to the Kremlin Cup semis, so it was not as impressive as it may look. We do hope to see her lifting a trophy in 2013.

5) Adidas: This doesn’t relate to Ana directly, but I felt compelled to mention it anyways. I’ve been a fan of Adidas for years, but they were a major failure in 2012. Ana’s French Open dress was probably my least favorite outfit she has ever worn. Sorry, I don’t think mint green and red is a good color combo. While I did like the yellow outfit Ana wore at the US Open, the weird design on the side did hurt the dress’ appeal. Fortunately, Ana’s 2013 Australian Open attire does look promising. I’ll reserve further judgment until I see her on court in it during an actual match.

Also, please bring back the visor! Some fans loved the headband, I didn’t. It was cute at first, but I much prefer the visor. The headband just isn’t a good look in my opinion. It’s not just Ana, it is my opinion in general.

Looking ahead to 2013

I’m not Nostradamus, so I can’t tell you what is going to happen in 2013. It’s hard to predict what will happen next year given all the question marks surrounding Ana’s fitness and even her game. As I mentioned earlier, how well Ana improves her fitness will tell us a lot. It will be interesting to see what she looks like in the Hopman Cup and the Australian Open.

Ana has already stated that her goals for next season are to get back into the top 10 and qualify for the Year End Championship in Instanbul. I believe these are achievable and good goals to have. If she can make the necessary improvements, Ivanovic can definitely get there. I don’t even think she has to qualify for the YEC’s for next season to be successful. Just get in the top 10 and put up good results more consistently over the course of the following year will do.

Since Christmas is this upcoming Tuesday, here is a little wish list of things I would like to see from Ana in the year 2013.

  • A Healthy Year: This goes without saying, but Ana has had too many small, niggling injuries over the past few years that have disrupted her season. It feels like every time Ana is having a really good tournament, it ends with her retiring with some sort of injury, whether it was her ankle in the 2010 Cincinnati semis or her glute in the 2012 Indian Wells semis. Yesterday, Ana wrote in her diary on her official website that she has spent the past couple of weeks training in Dubai, preparing for the new season. In that same diary, she also wrote that aside from her coach Nigel Sears and a hitting partner, she also had a fitness trainer and physio as part of her team. This is an encouraging sign if she does intends to keep them within her team throughout the season. I believe it is critically important that Ana as someone at her side to help get her physically stronger in 2013.
  • Hopman Cup Victory: Two years ago, Ana and Nole made the finals of Hopman Cup, only having to withdraw beforehand due to an abdominal injury Ana suffered in their  previous mixed-doubles match. Team Serbia has unfinished business and there is nothing more I would love see than to see Ana take home the diamonds this time around. Even though it is just an exhibition, I’m not sure if there is any event that I am looking forward to more than this one. Only just one week to go!
  • Top 10: Getting back into the top 10 for the first time in nearly four years is almost mandatory for 2013 to be considered a success. It’s one of Ana’s top goals and she certainly has a chance of getting there. Lets hope she does and that she stays there. Easier said than done.
  • Continue to progress at the slams: It was nice to see Ana perform better at the majors in 2012 and give herself opportunities in the second week. This year, we hope she can continue to make progress by making another slam quarterfinal, or perhaps even a slam semi. In order for her to accomplish this, however, she’ll have to start winning against the higher ranked players. It is something Ana hasn’t done since winning the French Open. Getting deep into slams by beating highly seeded players will certainly help in the confidence department. More so than just getting there by defeating non-seeded players, as was the case at this year’s US Open.
  • Win a title: I wouldn’t consider winning a title an absolute must for me to consider 2013 a success, but it would be nice to see Ana win one. It would be even nicer if she could win a premier event. Since winning the 2008 French Open, Ana has won four titles, but they all were international tournaments (Bali and Linz). A premier title could really do wonders for her.

This concludes my wrap up of Ana’s 2012 season. Looking forward to what is hopefully a good 2013. Until then, enjoy the holidays!

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