Kim's Dad has task of putting Ana back on top
Nigel Sears, an anonymous face in the
crowd at Melbourne Park, can proudly claim to be the second Briton to
retain an interest in the outcome of this Australian Open.
While his daughter Kim attracts the
attention of television directors as the long-time girlfriend of Andy
Murray, Sears is the quiet Englishman endeavouring to resurrect the
career of Ana Ivanovic after quitting as head of coach of British
women's tennis last summer following four-and-a-half productive years'
work with the LTA.
Work in progress: Nigel Sears has plans to help former world No 1 Ana Ivanovic get back to winning ways
And yesterday the 24-year-old Serb, whose potential has not been fulfilled following the heady days when she became world No 1 after she won the French Open in 2008, paid tribute to Sears.
'I feel like I can absorb a lot of Nigel's teachings,' said Ivanovic as she claimed a fourth-round appointment with Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova by defeating American Vania King 6-3, 6-4.
'This off-season was the first time we could actually take some time to work on specific things. I really feel it's paying off.'
In his years with the LTA, Sears was responsible for delivering some success within the corridors of the moribund governing body of the British game.
Under his regime, five women broke into the world's top 100, while Laura Robson then Heather Watson won junior Grand Slam titles at a time when Murray alone kept the flame alight for the British game on the men's ATP Tour.
Proven record: If anyone can help Ivanovic it's Sears (left)
But the offer to become Ivanovic's coach, made after an approach to him at Wimbledon, proved too seductive for a man who had previously improved the careers of Amanda Coetzer and Daniela Hantuchova.
'This is what I love, this is what I am,' said Sears.
'It's just been a question of reminding Ana how good she is.
'We've identified key priorities, like her serve, and giving her the freedom to hit her forehand, always her biggest shot, whether it goes for a wonderful winner or flies out of the court for a home run!'
Ivanovic spent a pivotal period over the winter training under a programme devised by Tina Maio, the physical trainer of her Australian boyfriend Adam Scott, currently the seventh best golfer in the world, who watched from courtside.
'Tina put the programme together, so I can stick just to the tennis side,' said Sears.
'Ana was in an emotional spin, but we know how she is naturally a fighter as she has been a champion in the past. I want her to get back that will to fight.'
Clearly, the hours on court with Sears has given Ivanovic the confidence to play with a greater freedom, but Kvitova's presence on the other side of the court on Monday, as world No 2 and a woman in form, will create a more telling examination of their embryonic partnership.
'I'm just enjoying competing again,' said Ivanovic.
'It's going to be tough, but I love challenges.'
Kvitova's passage into the fourth round was smoothed by the retirement of her opponent, Russian Maria Kirilenko, with a troublesome thigh.
But another Russian Maria Sharapova – albeit one with an American accent and a Californian address – looked ruthlessly efficient as she dispatched Angelique Kerber, 6-1, 6-2, to clinch a fourth-round meeting with another German, Sabine Lisicki. Sharapova, who won the first of her three major titles at Wimbledon in the far off summer of 2004, brings a veteran's mindset into the business end of these championships.
'I play, do some treatment, have dinner and go to sleep,' she said. In moments of relaxation, she is reading George Orwell's 1984.
'I thought it was time to read it,' said Sharapova, whose fame has meant she has lived her life under the gaze of Big Brother, or at least under the attention of the paparazzi, since the day she stood triumphant on the Centre Court at the All England Club.