Ana’s stay in Sydney did not last long as she was defeated by Lucie Safarova in straight sets today, 7-6 (5), 6-2. It was a match that lacked quality and was so reminiscent of many Ana matches of the past 3 years.
Neither player was able to break the other’s serve in the first set. Ana had a few opportunities early, with 2 break points in a long first game and another in Safarova’s 2nd service game. That was a close as she would come to breaking the Czech, as Safarova would dominate on her serve for the rest of the match. With no breaks of serve, the 1st set went to a tiebreak. After not being able to consolidate her mini-break up 5-4, Ana served for a crucial point at 5-5 in the tiebreaker. Ana had a relatively easy smash to a wide open court, that would had given her a set point. Instead of hitting the open court on the other side, she hit it into the net, which therefore gave Safarova a set point on her serve, which she promptly won. This would haunt Ana for the rest of the match as she meekly lost the 2nd set 6-2, and thus the match.
Ana’s performance overall left a lot to be desired. Her return game was awful. This match reminded me a lot of her loss to Petra Cetkovska at Wimbledon last year, where Cetkovska looked like Serena Williams on serve. After those early break points, Ana wasn’t able to do anything and Lucie Safarova’s serve for the rest of the match. At one point, Safarova lost only 2 points on her serve in a span of 4 service games. Ana served well for the most part in the 1st set, not dropping her serve once, but it fell apart in the 2nd set. But what hurt most of all, was the missed overhead smash into the net during the tiebreaker, which Ana could not erase from her memory for the rest of the match, and even admitted to allowing it to affect her. “I kept replaying that shot in my mind throughout the whole match. I felt like that was the turning point,” Ana said after the match. What was most disappointing about Ana’s play, was that she was playing so passively while Safarova was the aggressor. It felt at times I was watching Caroline Wozniacki play instead of Ana Ivanovic.
So far 2012 feels like a repeat of 2011. A 3rd set loss to Kim in Brisbane, another tough loss in a tiebreak, and a let down in the set afterwards. It’s still too early to assess where Ana’s game is at, but the results so far, haven’t been that promising. One of Ana’s biggest problems these past 3.5 years has been her inability to block out bad moments during a match, thus allowing it to play with her mind. It’s mental more than anything, and today’s match was vivid proof. Ana needs to build confidence and mental strength in overcoming bad moments like these during a match. That is what the best players do. Her mental strength has been her biggest weakness, and it has cost her, such as in matches like today.
Ana’s next stop will be Melbourne, where she’ll compete in the first major of the year, the Australian Open. She’ll be seeded in the 17-24 seed range. Hopefully she’ll get a decent draw and make some noise. It would be nice if she could collect some ranking points and start to move the ranking back up. She missed out on golden opportunities to do so these first two weeks of the season. Now it is the time for Ana to step her game up.