- Sandra Harwitt
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The French Open is Ana Ivanovic's type of place.
The 20-year-old Serbian won her first Grand Slam title and also attained the world No. 1 ranking.
Ivanovic took advantage of her third career Grand Slam final appearance, capturing a 6-4, 6-3 decision against Russian Dinara Safina to win the title on a chilly overcast Saturday afternoon in Paris.
The first Serbian to ever achieve the top ranking, Ivanovic follows countryman Novak Djokovic, who became the first Serbian to win a Grand Slam title at the Australian Open earlier this year.
Ivanovic, who dropped only one set en route to winning the title, lost a very nervous 6-1, 6-2 match to Justine Henin in her first Grand Slam final outing here in Paris last year. She did better against Maria Sharapova in this year's Australian Open final, but still lost in straight sets.
On Saturday, a more mature and experienced Ivanovic looked every inch the confident Grand Slam champion as she worked her way to victory. But after the match, she had a childlike exuberance, excitedly talking fast and giggling her way through her postmatch news conference.
Now that she's proved she is a champion, it will be natural to wonder whether she can keep control of the top ranking.
A number of key influential people from the tennis world were more than willing to weigh in on one intriguing question:
Can Ana Ivanovic hold on to the No. 1 ranking she earned at this French Open?
"Yes. I saw Ana play a couple of years ago and really saw her game and everything about her and I said to myself that it looks like she is going to be a bright star in women's tennis. I'm not surprised at all that she's No. 1. She seems like a really bright girl, she seems to have her head on her shoulders and has a great team around her. She works hard and she has an all-around game, so definitely we're going to see a lot of her in the future, especially since she is so young. Women's tennis is very open right now. There's a lot of girls playing great tennis and we'll see in the future what happens." -- Mary Pierce, two-time Grand Slam champion.
"I think that she's showed that she can play on the hard court, clay court and grass as well. I think she has a great chance to stay there at No. 1. The way she plays now -- she has the confidence and she is there. I think it's a huge difference between the last final here for her last year and this one. She has more confidence. When she played the first time in a Grand Slam final, she didn't feel that well. But today she controlled completely the situation on the court and we all saw that. This year, Ana won a big tournament at Indian Wells and was in the Australian Open final, so she showed that she can play on hard court as well. Last year she played well at Wimbledon. For Serbia, our players are our best ambassadors and the best way for us to promote our country. We are so proud that we all come from Serbia." -- Slobodan Zivojinovic, president of the Serbian Tennis Federation.
"I hope [she can keep the No. 1 ranking]. I'm sure that on faster surfaces she will have tougher competition with someone like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, who play much better on faster surfaces than clay. But she's a beautiful player. She has a very strong forehand, probably the best forehand in the game today. And I'm so impressed with the way she has lost some weight and with her physical condition is so much better. She has become a much faster player. I was here for the final last year and she has improved a lot from last year. And of course, she has more experience because of the previous two finals. Today she was the one to dominate from the beginning to the end. Basically, she is complete, so in the future she does have a chance to keep her place." -- Virginia Ruzici, 1978 French Open champion.
"Yes, yes, I do. It's been an obvious progression in her self-belief, confidence and athleticism. From 12 months ago she's grown enormously and she deserved to be the winner, I think. In the semifinal [against Jelena Jankovic] she was brave, she went for her shots and she was the one that deserved to get to the final. From 12 months ago, she came out as a nervous school girl and she was like the headmistress of the whole thing today. She was definitely the dominant force. There's no reason why she can't maintain that attitude and the top ranking." -- Todd Woodbridge, winner of 16 Grand Slam doubles titles.
"That's a good question. Well, I think she has an excellent chance, but it is hard to see someone that takes it over so quickly be able to stay there. We still have a few players like Sharapova and the Williams sisters and Jankovic around who would want that role, too. But she showed a lot of good stuff today out on the court. A beautiful forehand, her backhand was good and I think she's going to learn to attack more. She did have several chances to faint in that match, but she was very tough. I don't see any reason she can't keep the No. 1 ranking." -- Bud Collins, ESPN tennis analyst and Boston Globe columnist.
Sandra Harwitt is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.
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