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Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Struggling Ana Ivanovic seeks coach

Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, England -- Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic is seeking a coach who will help her return to the top.

Ever since the Serb with the intimidating serve and lethal forehand won the French Open three years ago, she has struggled on the WTA tour. Ivanovic won her first Grand Slam title by beating Dinara Safina 6-4, 6-3 at the French Open on June 7, 2008.

Her grass-court preparation will begin Wednesday at the Aegon Classic against Anna Tatishvili from Georgia. It's her first visit to Birmingham in seven years.

After the French Open win, it took Ivanovic until last year to win another title -- she picked up two -- but she has yet to get back even to the quarterfinals of another Grand Slam. She was ousted in the first round this year at Roland Garros.

Her lack of confidence has at times been both painful and public.

She watched the 41-match winning streak of fellow Serb and friend Novak Djokovic this year. She says she has often thought "could I borrow just a bit of your confidence?"

Injuries have exacerbated her problems. This year, while withdrawing from events because of an abdominal strain, fatigue and a wrist injury, she has maintained a top-20 ranking. But the physical and psychological issues might be alleviated by the insight and structure provided by a top-class coach.

Ivanovic traveled with only a hitting partner for most of this year, having suddenly parted with coach Antonio van Grichen. She thinks the ensuing instability in her regimen and her mind has affected her results.

"It's been a bit of a struggle and a little up and down -- and that's been happening for the last couple of years in my career," the 23-year-old said. "I want something more stable. I want something more solid. I know it's not easy to find a good coach, but it's something I should consider again."

Ivanovic did noticeably better at big tour stops in Indian Wells and Miami in March when she had access to the coaching of Darren Cahill through one of her sponsors, Adidas. She scored five wins, including one over Jelena Jankovic, a former No. 1, and held five match points against Kim Clijsters, the U.S. Open champion.

"It made a difference getting proper interaction and guidance," said Ivanovic, who will not be able to receive regular coaching from the Australian because he's responsible for other players.

"I have names of people I would like to talk to, but that's hard to do during competition," Ivanovic said. "Still, I'm thinking about it and talking to people about how to approach it."

She has a clear idea of the sort of coach she wants.

"First I have to find a good one," Ivanovic said. "Then, someone who will commit. And someone willing to travel. And someone with whom to get along, because you do spend a lot of time together.

"For a coach to be able to help you, they need to get to know you well. They need to see what's happening -- that you are not in the mood to talk, or something like this. It is very hard to find the right person."

She's not likely to line up someone before Wimbledon in two weeks. But when she does find a coach, she wants it to be a long-term arrangement.

"And that is something I am wary about. I don't want these ups and downs any more," she said. "I need to have more structure and more stability, and someone strong enough to go through with it. Not something which is going to be short-lived again."