With not much going on during the off-season, I have decided to rank the top 5 moments of Ana’s 2011 season. You’re welcome to agree or disagree and list your own in the comments.
5) Hopman Cup
Hopman Cup may as well been my favorite week of the entire season. Whenever you put Ana and Nole together for anything, it’s always going to be a special event. On and off the court, this tournament was a blast. We got spectacular pics like these and awesome on-court moments like in the vids below:
Ana won her first two singles matches against Yaroslava Shvedova and Alicia Molik before falling to Justine Henin in the 3rd tie against Belgium. Novak Djokovic won all 3 of his singles matches and both Ana and Nole teamed up to win two of the 3 mixed doubles matches. That is where the fun occurred. The two joked, giggled and had lots of fun with each other on the court. How can you not love them?!?!
Serbia was able to advance to the Hopman Cup finals against the United States, but unfortunately for them, Ana had to pull out beforehand due to an abdominal injury. It was such a shame because Ana and Nole played well together throughout the week and would have been the favorites in the final. The two won’t be playing Hopman Cup in 2012, due to Ana wanting to improve on her ranking by playing in Brisbane, but hopefully this pair will team up together again in the future. Despite the sad ending, Hopman Cup week was the most fun week of the entire season.
4) Ana makes semi’s in San Diego.
The first half of the season didn’t go according to plan. After hiring Nigel Sears and rehiring fitness trainer Scott Byrnes following her Wimbledon defeat, Ana was looking to rebound in the 2nd half with her new team. She lost her first match with Nigel at the helm to Ayumi Morita in Stanford, but got an opportunity for revenge a week later in San Diego. After taking the first set comfortably 6-1, Ana found herself in a 0-5 hole in the 2nd set. The matched looked like it was headed for a 3rd set, where Ana had really struggled in throughout the season. At this point, her fans could not help but think, here we go again. But Ana rallied, eventually forcing a 2nd set tiebreak. Despite Ana’s struggles in tiebreaks during the year, she won this one and got the revenge that she was seeking for coming into the tournament. It was her first win under Nigel Sears and what a way to capture your first win under a new coach. The win gave Ana new found confidence, which propelled her to an easy routine victory over the Italian Alberta Brianti in the 2nd round 6-1, 6-2 and then a 6-4, 6-2 win over an inform Peng Shuai in the quarter finals. Ana then met Vera Zvonareva in the semi’s, where she put up quite a fight. Ana took the first set 7-5 and looked on the verge of reaching her first premier final since Indian Wells 2009. However, Vera was able to take the 2nd and 3rd sets, thus ending Ana’s run in Carlsbad. But this tournament was a boost to Ana’s confidence and to the hopes of her fans as the season entered the 2nd half. And because of that, it’s #4 on this list.
3) Ana defeats Jelena Jankovic at Indian Wells
This comes in at #3 on this list for several reasons. First, it was Ana’s first big win of the season. She struggled mightly during the first two months of 2011. With that in mind, not many were all that optimistic about Ana chances of going far coming into Indian Wells. After an opening round victory over Kimiko Date-Krumm and then a 2nd round win over Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, Ana took on her biggest rival and Serbian compatriot Jelena Jankovic for a spot in the quarter finals. Ana came into the match with an 6-3 record against Jankovic, however, she had lost her previous two meetings, at Madrid in 2010 and at the Year End Championships in Doha back in 2008. Plus, the two hadn’t gotten along with each other all that much the year prior. This lead to a lot of anticipation prior to this match from both Ana and JJ fanbases. Jankovic was the clear favorite coming in. She was playing well at that time and was coming off a couple of good tournaments in February. But Ana turned in one of her best performances of the season and defeated JJ in straight sets 6-4, 6-2. Ana wasn’t able to keep up the good play as she lost to Marion Bartoli in the quarter finals.
2) Ana reaches quarter finals in Beijing
This comes in at #2 because of the quality of play Ana displayed during this event, the opponents she beat and the size of the tournament (premier mandatory). This was the point of the season where it was make or break time for Ana in regards to her ranking. She had tons of points to defend in the final month of the season, starting with 250 quarter final points from 2010 in Beijing. So it was essential that Ana had another good run here to prevent the start of a ranking slide. She managed to do it, by defeating Kimiko Date-Krumm for the 3rd time of the season in the opening round 6-1, 6-1. Ana followed that up with a convincing 2nd round victory over two time major champion Svetlena Kuznetsova by a score of 6-2, 6-3 and then with a stellar performance against the 3rd ranked player in the world Vera Zvonareva, winning 6-2, 6-1. The journey ended in the quarter finals once again, this time to eventual champion Agnieszka Radwanska, with Ana having to retire during the 2nd set due to a lower back injury. Despite this unfortunate ending, it was still a very good week for Ana, who in my opinion, played her best tennis of the season for a whole week.
1) Ana wins Bali
Ana came into the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions in Bali as the defending champion, winning the event the year prior. However, she hadn’t won a tournament or even made the final of one in all of 2011. Despite this, she was given a wild card into the event and the opportunity to defend her title, and that she did. Ana defeated Roberta Vinci 6-3, 6-3 in her first match. She then went on to defeat Nadia Petrova in the semi’s 6-1, 7-5. In the final, Ana secured the title with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Anabel Medina Garrigues.
This was an obvious pick for #1 moment of the year. It was a nice ending to a disappointing season and hopefully will translate to better results next year.