Perth: Four years of gentle persuasion from fellow Serb Novak Djokivic finally convinced Ana Ivanovic to return as a competitor at the Hopman Cup.
Former number one and 2008 Roland Garros champion Ivanovic said Thursday that after last playing the eight-nation mixed team event in 2006, she is pleased to be returning to Perth for the opening tune-up for the Australian Open.
"I`m very excited about this, coming here, there is a lot of potential to do really well," said the 23-year-old, who ended a two-year trophy drought this past autumn with WTA victories in Linz and Bali.
"Novak has been asking me to come back ever since the first year we played here."
Ivanovic is well used to summer condition in the southern hemisphere, arriving in Australia from Europe in time for Christmas with her parents. She and men`s number three Djokovic teamed for Serbia in Perth five years ago, with Ivanovic winning two of her three singles matches in group play.
"There are lots of great players out there but it`s been a little bit shaky, it`s been up and down," she said of a women`s game currently without a dominating player with the decline of Serena Williams and number one Caroline Woznbiacki still without a Grand Slam crown.
"A lot of players have been fighting injuries and haven`t played that many events, so I think if you can start good and be consistent you can get really far next year."
With her ranking having risen to 17th after sinking to 68th in the years since her Paris Grand Slam title, Ivanovic feels poised for a rebirth in the sport. "I want to get back to the top ten and hopefully win another slam," she said.
"Winning a Grand Slam is something I can never forget. If I had to choose I would always choose a Grand Slam over number one ranking. I have potential to win some more and it would be a good start next year."
"I think I`m on the right way," added the player who took on a new coach in the WTA off season, "I work really hard but consistency is the main thing. You have to perform good week after week and also match after match."
"You have to recover well and then get your game up because you have lots of tough opponents. In a Grand Slam you have to win seven matches and there are no easy matches anymore - from the first round on you get tough opponents."
Ivanovic showed her potential in the 2008 Australian Open, where she reached the final four months before winning Paris. But with her post-Paris form drop, she only managed the third round in 2009 and the second round a year ago at Melbourne Park.
"My goal now is to get to the second week (of a Slam). I feel good about my game and my fitness at the moment but I just don`t want to get too excited about the possibilities or how far I can get."
"It`s very important to just set realistic goals and aim for the second week, then take it day by day. I think it`s all about confidence."
Perth play begins New Year`s day with Australia (Lleyton Hewitt and Alicia Molik) facing Belgium with seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin and Ruben Bemelmans.