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Ana Ivanović, retired professional tennis player

Dimensions Of Success Now Measured In Children’s Smiles

She won the French Open at the age of 20. Following the presentation of the trophy, the national anthem of the winner was recited, meaning the Serbian national anthem was performed in Paris! Two days later, she officially became the number one female player on the WTA list. She served as a UNICEF ambassador for over 10 years and has been married to celebrated German footballer Bastian Schweinsteiger for almost four years, with whom she has two sons, Luka and Leon. She says that she enjoys the role of mother, viewing parenting as a great fortune, but also a responsibility

When I started my career as a sports journalist back in the early ’90s, tennis was viewed as a marginal sport in Serbia. But it was then that a plethora of young girls and boys emerged and succeeded in doing something unimaginable: elevating Serbia onto the pedestal of the tennis world, thus improving the image of the country more than any political marketing campaign. One of those youngsters was Ana Ivanović, who – despite not residing in her homeland – continues to attract a lot of public attention. People are interested in how she lives in Austria and whether she’s more adept at handling babies’ nappies than a racquet, especially during this time of the planetary pandemic.

“With two small children, time is mostly dedicated to activities with and around them. A lot of imagination is required to fill the day and make it interesting for children, considering that we are constantly at home and that we also follow rules whereby the children don’t spend time in front of a TV screen or computer. All in all, we enjoy ourselves with them, with an awareness that they will grow up very quickly. Of course, I also take care of myself. During my career, I spent a lot of time in the gym and – along with daily tennis training – there was little time remaining for other activities. It’s for this reason that I now enjoy yoga, running and all other sporting activities that make me feel good. Of course, I now do all of that out of pure enjoyment and as much as it brings me pleasure. I believe that it is ‘in the blood’ of former athletes to stay active,” says Ana.

I now enjoy yoga, running and all other sporting activities that make me feel good. Of course, I now do all of that out of pure enjoyment and as much as it brings me pleasure, I believe it is ‘in the blood’ of former athletes to stay active

Behind every man stands a successful woman, while the opposite is also true in the case of Ana Ivanović. She’s been married to celebrated German footballer Bastian Schweinsteiger for almost four years. They chose the Austrian town of Westendorf as their family nest, but they have retained some of the habits of the former nomadic life that they led as athletes.

Ana Ivanović
Ana with husband Bastian Schweinsteiger

“Somehow that nomadic life gets into the blood and as nice as it is to have a home and some personal oasis of peace, the desire to travel is still present. We spent three wonderful years in Chicago, where the children were born and we made a lot of friends. However, as a family, we’re actually constantly on the move and often on the road. The children grew accustomed to constant changes in their place of residence and environment from an early age. I believe that stimulates them in terms of development, which provides an additional motive for travelling.

My native Belgrade is always “on the map” of our travels. The last time we were there was for our Christmas this year, all four of us. Leon was less than four months old and that was his first visit, and when it comes to Luka, he’s been to Belgrade several times and recognises many things. We hope that we’ll have an opportunity to travel again soon.

Everyone experiences this isolation in their own way and adapts to the new living conditions, in the hope that things will soon return to normal. I think we all face the feeling of being in some sci-fi film

It is said that nomadic types are the world’s richest people when it comes to friendships, with those constant travels ensuring that they make friends all around the planet, but that also implies that they care for those people – not to mention the families from which they are mostly parted.

“One wonderful circumstance is that my parents just happened to be visiting us when the quarantine started, so we spent all this time together. I’m happy about that, and it means a lot to me that we finally have the opportunity to spend more time together, even if it is under these conditions. On the other hand, they received an additional opportunity to enjoy themselves with their grandchildren, though there was, of course, concern for the rest of the family in Belgrade. I miss my brother a lot. We speak to one another on a daily basis and that makes the situation much easier. Of course, we’re also in contact with our friends from Serbia and the U.S. Everyone experiences this isolation in their own way and adapts to the new living conditions, in the hope that things will soon return to normal. I think we all face the feeling of being in some sci-fi film.”

It is a privilege to help people when that help is essential, and the most important thing is for that help to always arrive where it is needed. Everything else is irrelevant. Among other things, when you give sincerely then you don’t expect anything in return

Ivanović, who has been a UNICEF ambassador for a long time, recently donated respirators, protective gear and hygienic equipment to Serbia. This somehow passed fairly quietly among the public, though that was apparently due to Ana’s own attitude.

“I try to help as much as I can. I’ve spent over 10 years as a UNICEF ambassador and I find great satisfaction in that cooperation. It is a privilege to help people when that help is essential, and the most important thing is for that help to always arrive where it is needed. Everything else is irrelevant. 

Ana Ivanović
Ana with her mother

Among other things, when you give sincerely then you don’t expect anything in return.”

Luka, Leon and Bastian are the three men who ensure Ana’s life is even more successful and happier than it was during her playing days. Confirming that is her smile, which shines in the photos that she posts on social media.

“Of course, family life has brought me a lot of joy and I enjoy the role of mother. The dimension of success is now measured through the smiles on the boys’ faces and the extent to which we will, as parents, succeed in enabling them to grow with true values and to develop their potential. I experience parenting as a great fortune, but also a responsibility.”

It was on 7th June 2008 that Ana played the point that would define everything for her. She took advantage of her match point against Dinara Safina in the final at Roland-Garros and everything gained meaning – all her efforts and sacrifices. That point definitively placed her life in the category of those about which all athletes in the world dream.

The dimension of success is now measured through the smiles on the boys’ faces and the extent to which we will, as parents, succeed in enabling them to grow with true values and to develop their

“That is the crowning glory of my career, the most emotional moment at multiple levels because a lot happened in that one day. Many times after that I “rewound the film” in my head and every time that same emotion was there. Incredible happiness, pride and the realisation of a dream. Roland-Garros is also the only Grand Slam tournament where the national anthem of the winner’s home country is performed after the presentation of the trophy: the Serbian national anthem in Paris! Two days later, I officially became the number one female tennis player on the WTA list… 

Ana-Ivanovic

To experience all of that is indescribable, especially since I was only 20 at the time.” However, the big question is whether that will ever happen again. Serbia still has top tennis players, but there is currently a major gap when it comes to the ladies competition. Why is that the case?

“It has simply come to a change of generations and it will take some time for top results to return. It is important for new talented youngsters to emerge.”

Ana decided to retire at quite an early age when she still must have had more to offer – perhaps not at the very top level, but certainly, enough to have increased her bank balance even more. She lost some valuable contracts due to that decision, but she weighed everything up and gauged her priorities. And what does she see when she looks back?

“There are some things that you only see more realistically when your career is over. From this perspective, I think that in one part of my career I put myself under too much pressure and thus I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I should have.”

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