So it's no secret that I'm an Ana Ivanovic fan. I was a big Steffi Graf fan so naturally I was drawn to her ridiculous forehand. When she runs around it and goes inside out, it's one of the most beautiful shots in the game.
But I have to confess that the real reason I love her is because I read this random article about how this one tennis journalist in Britain, who had been following her career since 2004, had nicknamed her "Baby Elephant" when she first turned pro because she was tall, tan, a bit thick, and not the most graceful around the court. I believe the words he used were "lumbering", "slow", "powerful", and "awkward". This cracked me up to no end. There was another article that came out during Wimbledon wherein her old coach said they had to monitor her caloric intake when she was a teenager because she ate too much. Girl likes to grub! Then I read a bunch of articles about how frighteningly shy she was and she just became the Dumbo of the WTA tour for me. So endearing and adorable.
Well look at Baby Elephant now. She followed Fergie's advice and hit the gym to work on her fitness, got the braces off, and grew a few inches.
All this brings me to this article, which was published in French today in Montreal. A kind AI fan, Blahar, from the AI Fan Forums, provided a rough translation of the article. Here is my favorite part:
A spectacular style of play. A touching story. A smile that's worth miliions. Ana Ivanovic has everything to become the next big star of women's tennis.
And yet, the new World No. 1 was not destined to live in the spotlight. As a child, she hated to draw the attention. Shy to the extreme, the first in her class - a nerd according to her own views - was horrified with oral exams at school. And now she earns her living by playing in front of thousands of strangers.
"I was the quiet little girl sitting in the corner of class at school," she said in La Presse. I always had the best grades but i didn't mingle much with the group, with the exception of one or two friends. I'm still a little bit like that, but my job has forced me to act out more."
As a teenager, Ana Ivanovic, didn't get rid of her morbid shyness. "Like all teens, I did not like my body and I wanted to lose weight, she said. My coach was joking sometimes because I was a girl lightly wrapped up. At that age, you're not happy in your skin and it was probably one of the reasons why I was so shy. "
To watch her express with such ease now, the conclusion seems obvious, the tennis has helped Ana Ivanovic to overcome this complex. Nevertheless, she admits being a bit surprised by all the attention she started getting after winning her first Grand Slam title - Roland Garros in June - and reaching the number one ranking in the world. "I'm still an embarrassed girl, but I can not say that I do not like all the attention that i get," she agrees.
The anonymity of juniors tournaments suited her perfectly. When she made the big leap, she had to cope with one of the unavoidable realities of professional tennis, the spectators. "During one of my first tournaments, Luxembourg, I asked to play on a secondary court instead of centre court because I wanted the fewest possible people attending my game, she remembers laughing. Afterwards, I realized that my attitude was ridiculous! It's much more motivating to play in front of a full stadium ... "
So basically, Ana Ivanovic, the current IT girl of the WTA, FHM cover girl, is a fat girl* who grew into her body but still harbors all the same insecurities as the rest of us. She's a nerd, hates the spotlight, is insecure and knows it.
Seriously. How can you not love Baby Elephant?
* Just to be clear, I don't think Ana is or was ever fat. But for a professional athlete she wasn't as fit as she probably needed to be back then.