Ivanovic has arrived

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

So fresh (and refreshing) is she that Ana Ivanovic still remembers all of her big pro tennis firsts.

Her first Grand Slam final earlier this year, when she blew by Maria Sharapova in the semi-final only to lose to Justine Henin at the French Open, certainly stands out.

A final four appearance on the lawn at Wimbledon this summer wasn't so bad either.

And when it comes to her four career wins to date, last year's Rogers Cup triumph was huge for the woman ranked No. 4 in the world -- and that with a bullet.

"It was an unbelievable breakthrough for me," Ivanovic said yesterday at the Rexall Centre as she prepared for another first -- defending a title. "It helped me a lot because that was my first Tier 1 tournament win and I beat a lot of good players. It gave me the confidence to practise even harder."

Though she is the fourth seed here, it's not a leap to suggest that the 19-year-old Serb could repeat come Sunday.

Ivanovic, who eases into play today against China's Zi Yan, has been likened to Sharapova for her appealing mix of marketability and on-court moves.

A quick Google search reveals ample evidence of the former while two wins and $1.5 million U.S. in earnings this season takes care of the latter.

Riding the wave of Serbian success sweeping both sexes of pro tennis, Ivanovic has known last week's men's Rogers Cup champion Novak Djokovic for years.

"I knew him since we were both four," Ivanovic said. "Once we played an exhibition in Serbia two and a half years ago and I won, 7-5. But I think he was just a gentleman.

"I said he is going to be the next Roger Federer. I think he has a very bright future in front of him."

Many would say the same about Ivanovic, who entered the 2006 Rogers Cup as the No. 13 seed and left the champ after upsetting Martina Hingis in the final.

Since then she's made steady progress and comes to Toronto off a win in California last week.

HIGHER GOALS

"It took me some time to get through to the top 10 which was my goal for a long time," Ivanovic said. "Now I'm setting higher goals.

"It's only three spots to go but it's definitely the hardest to make. There are many players who want the same position."


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