MADRID, Nov 5 (Reuters) Relaxation, meditation, improved fitness and a desire to put the fun back into her tennis are the reasons Ana Ivanovic gives for her dramatic rise to number four in the world.
''The beginning of this season wasn't great for me. But after the American tournament in Charleston (in April) I had time off, took some holiday then started preparing again,'' the Serb told reporters on the eve of the WTA Championships here.
''From that point on something changed and I started putting much less pressure on myself and enjoying each game, and that worked well. I tried to work on meditation, to relax a little more.'' Ivanovic, who turns 20 on Tuesday and is the youngest player at the end-of-season event, was outside the top 15 in May.
But three tour titles, a first grand slam final at Roland Garros and a semi-final appearance at Wimbledon have helped her climb the rankings.
''Now I try to take things step by step and not do everything at once,'' she said. ''I played very few tournaments this year but I played them very well and that worked for me.
FITNESS LEVELS ''I just try to enjoy each match and have fun on court. I see the matches and tournaments like a reward for the hard work I put in.'' Ivanovic said improved fitness levels and maturity were also responsible for the good results this season which have helped her become the only player other than world number one Justine Henin to record more than 10 wins over top-10 players.
''I'm very pleased with my fitness,'' she said. ''I've improved a lot in that area.
''I'm fitter and stronger and that helps me avoid injuries. I also think I'm more mature and that helps me to stay calm and perform better.'' Ivanovic's last tournament victory came in Luxembourg in September before she got knocked out early in Stuttgart and Zurich.
''The last two tournaments were not exactly the best of my career but I was expecting too much and putting myself under too much pressure,'' she said. ''I'm still trying to learn how to be a top player.
''Now I've had two weeks to prepare and I've been working on my mental training. Coming here I feel much better and feel I'm in good shape.'' Ivanovic makes her debut in the event tomorrow with a round-robin match against world number two Svetlana Kuznetsova.
REUTERS PDS RK2305