Ivanovic rolls back years to reach French last eight

PARIS (Reuters) - When a 20-year-old Ana Ivanovic won the French Open in 2008 and the number one ranking followed shortly afterwards the world appeared to be at her feet.

Photogenic and with a sweet smile she was already a poster girl for the WTA Tour and sponsors queued up for her signature.

Later that year she tearfully announced in Beijing that she was unable to play in the Olympics because of a thumb injury and suddenly her career, which had always been moving on up, became complicated.

It was hardly that she disappeared off the radar, but in the years that followed, injuries and emotional instability on court meant the results for one of the game's big hitters dried up.

She fell outside the top 60 in 2010 and although she worked her way back up, it was only last season that the form that took her to that final victory against Dinara Safina returned.

That is why she celebrates every win at Roland Garros with such joy -- as was the case again on Sunday when she reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 2008 by beating Russia's Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 3-6 6-1.

Ukraine's Elina Svitolina awaits in the next round -- the fearless 20-year-old standing between Ivanovic and a first grand slam semi-final for seven years.

"On the one hand it does feel like it's a different life," Ivanovic, the seventh seed, who has only reached three quarter-finals at slams since her 2008 triumph, told reporters.

"On the other hand, I feel like time is really flying. I feel it hasn't been that many years. I definitely do have the feeling it's amazing."

Ivanovic, who is dating Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, certainly looks relaxed these days, a far cry from the nervous-looking player she had become.

There were times when Sunday's match would have slipped through her fingers, especially with a tricky wind and rain in the air but her aggressive game saw her through.

Having taken the opening set with a break in the 12th game, rifling a forehand onto the line, she was pegged back to one set all as Makarova and the conditions began to unsettle her.

She re-focussed though and once her inside-out forehand found its range again, she ran out a comfortable winner.

"The exciting part is that I feel I can still improve," Ivanovic, who has needed three sets in three of her four matches so far, said. "To reach the semi-final would be an amazing feeling."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)

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