Another chance for Ana

1

June 2, 2015 by Parveer Mann

Ana celebrates after reaching her first French Open semifinal in seven years. (Photo credit:  Ella Ling/BPI/Rex Shutterstock via theguardian.com)

Ana celebrates after reaching her first French Open semifinal in seven years. (Photo credit: Ella Ling/BPI/Rex Shutterstock via theguardian.com)

After nearly seven years, Ana Ivanovic finally gets to relive the feeling that comes with making a Grand Slam semifinal and she’ll be the first to acknowledge how special it is. Her 6-3, 6-2 win over Ukrainian Elina Svitolina was not Tuesday’s most impressive performance, that belongs to Stan Wawrinka’s straight sets triumph but it could have been the most surprising. Sure, her opponent was lower-ranked and Ana had just beat her easily in Madrid a few weeks ago but given Ana’s track record in recent years, the second week of a slam in never a given and nothing like we saw today. However, this performance could go a long way into changing that Grand Slam narrative and give her that overdue second chance at tennis glory.

Table 1: Ana’s Grand Slam record since winning 2008 French Open

Record Best Finish
Australian Open 14-7 QF (2014, l. [30] Eugenie Bouchard)
French Open 16-6 SF? (2015)
Wimbledon 13-7 4R (2009, l. [3] Venus Williams and 2012, l. [2[ Victoria Azarenka)
US Open 15-7 QF (2012, l. [4] Serena Williams)

Unlikeliest survivor in a tournament of casualties

Despite her strong showing in Brisbane to start the year, Ivanovic has had a forgettable 2015 season and carried a meek 11-9 match record into Roland Garros this year with early losses in Rome and Madrid. Obviously, not the most impressive resume for someone trying to breakthrough to the final four for the first time in seven years. But, when her Top 8 colleagues (Genie Bouchard, Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova) started falling early for various reasons, it was oft-criticized for her mental strength, Ana Ivanovic along with Serena Williams who withstood upset bid after upset bid.

Unlike Serena’s legendary resolve when down a set like she was against Anna-Lena Friedsam, Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens in consecutive matches, Ana Ivanovic has never had the label of being a great closer. So it has been a near epiphany to see her resolve fighting back from two early round deficits (against Yaroslava Shvedova and Misaki Doi) and another interesting three-set clash against Ekaterina Makarova.

The key to her success so far has been consistency, her serving stats are never bawdy but she has kept her first serve percentage fairly level between 52 and 64 per cent through five matches and her double faults at a manageable 1.79 per set (no real free points for her opponents). Also, it is always better to see an aggressive Ana Ivanovic and her track record so far indicates that with her winners outnumbering unforced errors in each of her first five matches.

Opportunity waits

Those who’ve patiently believed in Ana Ivanovic all these years and I know many have because her popularity on tour certainly hasn’t waned understand the stakes for Ana these next few days. She’ll face Lucie Safarova next, the Czech holds a 5-3 H2H advantage including defeating Ana in the Round of 32 at Roland Garros last year and after that, possibly a match with Serena Williams in the finals.

It will certainly be two tough opponents and grand stages to put her game on display again for all to see and show herself that she still belongs when it counts.

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