In the most stunning upset on the seventh day of the Australian Open, women’s top ranked player, Serena Williams lost her fourth round match to the Serbian 14th seed Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 3-6, 3-6 at the Rod Laver Arena. The 32-year old Serena began year 2014 as the tournament favorite and she was chasing her 18th Grand Slam title. And the way she had been playing lately, it would have come as no surprise, if she had gone on to win the Australian Open for the fifth time.
But Ana Ivanovic had other ideas, as she spoiled Serena’s party. The 26-year old Serbian is no mean player either and she has been around the women’s tennis circuit for long enough to know about the tremendous capability of her famous opponent. Therefore, she took to the court on Sunday with a cautious optimism, devoid of any undue over-confidence. Ivanovic first played in the Australian Open as a teenager in 2005 and in 2008; she reached the final, where she lost to Maria Sharapova. By this time, she had already made a name for herself. A few months later, she won her only Grand Slam at the Roland Garros. In later years, there was a slump in her performance and she once touched the bottom with a 60+ WTA ranking, around mid-2010. But she didn’t give up hopes and clawed back to return within the top 15-20 in the next two years.
And on Sunday, Ana Ivanovic played marvelous tennis to outwit the tennis queen, who was being regarded as unstoppable in her crusade. Some people might say that Ivanovic was probably helped by Serena’s slow down on account of her back injury, though, Serena herself, denied that in her post-match interview. The Melbourne Park crowd, who saw Ana Ivanovic play against Samantha Stosur in the second round match, would definitely vouch for Ivanovic’s tenacious capability and raising her game, when needed. Stosur had said after her loss to Ivanovic that Serena had better be careful against the consistency of Ivanovic’s service and her formidable forehand.
When the match began at the Road laver arena, it became evident, even in the first set that Serena was not playing her usual game. Though she won that set 6-4, she served two double faults and struggled to save three break points. But Serena is made of a sterner stuff. Very few girls, playing against her, can take her for granted, even if she is limping on the court. It will require courage of an altogether different kind to throw a challenge to Serena Williams. Ana Ivanovic understood this very well and weighed her options in the first set itself. Disregarding the fact that she had not been able to steal a set from Serena in their last four meetings, Ivanovic did not allow her confidence to be shaken, despite the loss in the first set. Hanging out on the baseline and matching Serena ball-for-ball in the opening set, would have boosted Ivanovic’s game. In the second set, the two players won their service games, until the score reached 2-2. Then Ivanovic broke Serena’s service in the fifth game and held her own to go into a 4-2 lead. After this, Serena won just one more game, as Ivanovic took the second set 6-3. When the match went to the final set, Ivanovic’s confidence had gone up several notches. In the decider, Ivanovic took an early lead with lady luck also favoring her, as evidenced by one of wildly played backhand finding the clip of the net and the ball dropping inside the court. Serena appeared to be slowing down towards the end of the third set while Ivanovic looked someone in command. She did nothing to squander her advantage and matched Serena in power rallies from near the baseline. Serena didn’t surrender but in the end she was outplayed by Ivanovic, who won the third set 6-3.
Match statistics were on Ana Ivanovic’s side in this game. She had 20 forehand winners against Serena, who could only manage two. She also had an upper hand on points won on first serve and those won on returning. With her shock victory over Serena, other women’s players will certainly sit up and take notice.