Simon Reed

Coaching the key to Ivanovic recovery

Simon Reed

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We should not get too carried away with Ana Ivanovic's victory in the WTA Linz event last week but I think it is a significant step on her road to recovery and it is just a shame for her that the season is coming to a close because she is really starting to build up some momentum.

If we had a few more tournaments before the end of the season we could have learned a lot more but what I'm seeing is a player who is looking better than ever.

There is more logic to her game now than even when she was world number one. Back then it was all about hitting, but now we are seeing some amazing shot-making to go with all that power.

How has this renaissance come about?

For me, the key difference is she now has Steffi Graf's former coach Heinz Gunthardt in her corner; there are only two or three coaches out there that rate at his level, and his presence alone makes her once again a very dangerous prospect in the women's game.

I'm not going to lie, I had a cheeky look at Ivanovic's odds for the Australian Open recently and was quite happy with what I saw, as I really think she is starting to look like a good outside bet for that tournament.

She is now probably going to be seeded in Melbourne and apart from the very top tier of women players, I think she will be the most dangerous prospect in the draw.

Again, the presence of Heinz there as her coach leads me to such confidence.

I know Heinz quite well and talked to him about Ivanovic at Roland Garros just after he started working with her.

At that stage Ivanovic was struggling and he was saying it was all down to what was going on in between her ears. He said they would have the most amazing practice sessions but then she would go out on court and it would just be a case of brain-freeze.

Ivanovic just didn't enjoy it out there on court and she was consistently making the wrong choices; but I think Heinz has calmed her down, her decision making has improved dramatically, and she just looks a happier person, especially as she is now hunting down the top players again as opposed to having to cope with the pressure of being one of the top dogs.

I have a feeling her career will always go up-and-down a bit, but I think the swings will become less violent in future, and certainly when one of those swings is on the up curve then she is a major threat and I can see her doing very, very well in Melbourne.

That's not to say everything is perfect. I don't think a leopard can completely change its spots, and there is still a vulnerability to her personality.

However, that is something Heinz has worked on, and there could be a maturing process to factor in too, which is why I don't think any drop-off in future will be as alarming as before. I think she'll have dips again, but I certainly don't see her dropping out of the top 50 again.

Heinz will continue to hover in the background, moulding her game, and we can expect to see more slice backhands, a bit more patience, and the opposition should beware because she hits the ball a ton and there are few who can hit it harder.

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