Ana Ivanovic: Me and my racket
A new racket can take some getting used to, but the Serb made her move to the Yonex EZONE 100 look easy. We talked to her in 2010 when she first started using her new weapon.
th: First things first: is it true that your uncle tried out your new Yonex EZONE 100 racket before you did?
AI: Yes! He was staying at my house in Mallorca and I was out that day. He accepted the delivery and tried it out! He also thought it was a great racket. He loves tennis, and I didn’t mind him using them – but after that, they are just for me!
th: Did Yonex involve you in the development of the new rackets? How were you involved in the testing process for the EZONE range?
AI: They really did an incredible job producing this racket. I tested a few frames after Wimbledon while I was preparing for the North American hard court season, but they weren’t really what I was looking for, so Yonex took note of my feedback and produced some more test frames.
To be honest, I was feeling quite down after losing in San Diego, and it was just pure luck that the newer versions of the EZONE 100 were ready to be tested right at that moment. Usually players wouldn’t test a racket in between tournaments like that, but I felt I needed to do something, to change something, and this turned out to be a great decision, if a lucky one. So I tested them between San Diego and Cincinnati and I immediately fell in love with it.
th: What do you look for in a racket to complement your playing style?
AI: I have a very powerful game, so I look for a racket that allows me to hit the ball freely and hard, but with control. I also like to get plenty of spin on my backhand, so that’s important as well.
th: In your first tournament after making the switch to the EZONE 100 you reached the semi-finals, and in October you picked up your first tournament win in two years. We’re not saying that it’s all down to the racket, but do you feel that the switch has helped your game? How exactly?
AI: Yes, it improved my game immediately, mainly due to the larger sweet spot. This new racket is a lot more forgiving than my old one, and it has a larger head. It’s also a little bit more flexible than my old one.
When you’re playing perfect tennis everything is coming off the centre and the size of the sweet spot isn’t so important – but you don’t always play your best game, so this little help with off-centre hits is important, even for a professional.
th: What do you make of the new all-black paint job?
AI: I’m a big fan of it – it’s elegant, simple but sophisticated at the same time. I won the French Open using a black racket and they will probably always be my favourite designs.
th: Do you remember your first ever racket?
AI: Yes, it was a Rucanor that my father gave me for my fifth birthday. I remember him giving it to me – I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited in my life! I still have it, in the cupboard at my apartment.
th: How many rackets do you travel with to a tournament?
AI: For me, six is a good number. If I’m playing a series of tournaments I want to begin with six – this allows me to have a few strung at different tensions for a match.
th: What grip size do you use?
AI: Size 2 [4 ¼”]
th: How about strings and what tensions?
AI: I use natural gut 1.25mm in the mains at around 55 lbs and a polyester in the crosses at around 53 lbs. I adjust the tension depending on the conditions – the speed of the court and the weather.
th: Do you use a vibration dampener?
th: After broken strings and cracked frames, what makes you switch rackets during a match?
AI: Well, I have four rackets strung for a match, and then re-strung if I have a match the next day. I don’t following which frame exactly I’m using, because they’re all the same anyway. So due to just, I guess you say chance, I will probably be using a different racket for my next match. I only deliberately change if the frame is cracked. In theory you could use just one racket for an entire tournament, although that would be very, very unusual, and stressful!
th: Do you remember when you started playing with the set-up of your rackets, taking interest in the tensions and playing with the weight distribution?
AI: When I started playing I actually wasn’t taking so much interest in the specifics of my rackets. But I’ve developed a better feel for them as the years have gone by, especially since I joined Yonex and learnt how intricate the whole process can be. I mean, when I did my main testing of Yonex rackets before I changed, they brought 38 rackets over from Tokyo!
Of course, I have played around with lead tape for weight distribution, but as soon as I am happy with the customization Yonex build it into the frame.
th: Do you have any racket habits or superstitions that people might find funny or weird?
AI: Not really, not anymore. I used to believe that my vibration dampener might be lucky, but these days I don’t have as many superstitions as I used to!
th: When was the last time you smashed a racket?
AI: That would have to be in Beijing last month! It was very silly, because I only had three rackets with me at that moment – I actually lost that match, but I would have had to be really, really careful if I’d won it and advanced to the semis…