Ana returned to action this weekend in Moscow, as she along with fellow Serbian teammates Jelena Jankovic, Bojana Jovanovski and Aleksandra Krunic made up the Serbian Fed Cup team that took on Russia. This was an historic week, with Serbia playing in the semifinals of Fed Cup for the first time in its history. With a spot in the finals at state, a lot was on the line.
The consensus going into this weekend was that Serbia would have to win 3 of the 4 singles matches to win the tie. Russia is very strong in doubles, while doubles being a weakness for the Serbs. To the surprise of many, Russian Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpischev chose to go with the slumping Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova over the higher ranked Maria Kirilenko in singles. It was later revealed that Kirilenko was injured. Svetlena Kuznetsova got the other spot. Ana and JJ were chosen for singles by Serbian Fed Cup captain Dejan Vranes, to the surprise of no one.
Jankovic gave Serbia an early 1-0 lead with a big win over Pavlyuchenkova in the first singles match on Saturday. Ivanovic took to the court next against Kuznetsova. Ana was seen as the favorite going in, as she had been in better form as of late, and is the highest ranked player overall in this weeks Fed Cup tie. But Ana struggled out of the gate and eventually lost the match 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. This leveled the tie at 1-1, and put pressure on Ana and JJ to win both of their singles matches on Sunday.
It was an ominous beginning for Ivanovic yesterday, who came out sluggish against Pavlyuchenkova, digging herself into a big, early 0-5 hole. She avoided the bagel by breaking Pavlyuchenkova, as the Russian served for the set. After a hold and another break of serve, Ana begin to find herself a little, while Pavlyuchenkova was beginning to crumble. Even though Pavyuchenkova did break Ana to finally secure the 1st set, 6-3, you could sense momentum beginning to turn, and boy did it. Ana dominated from the rest of the match as Pavlyuchenkova wasn’t able to recover. Ivanovic secured at 2nd set bageled and then raced out to a 4-0 lead in the 3rd set. After failing to serve out the match on her own serve, Ana broke Pavs to take the match 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 and give Serbia a 2-1 lead in the tie.
Jankovic now needed to beat Kuznetsova to put Serbia into the finals. She did so, winning her match 6-1, 6-4, securing Serbia a spot in the Fed Cup finals for the first time ever. Serbia will play the defending Fed Cup champs Czech Republic in the finals, this November. If Serbia is to win their first Fed Cup title, they’ll have to do it again on the road, likely on an indoor hard court surface against indoor hard court GOAT Petra Kvitova, and the always challenging Lucie Safarova. The Czech Republic will no doubt be prohibitive favorites going in. Things can change however. The tie is still over six months away and we don’t know what form all of the participating players will be in by then. Whatever happens, this is a great achievement for the Serbians and well worth celebrating.
As for Ana’s play this weekend, it was far from her best. She was playing under tremendous pressure, especially considering what happened two years ago, the last time Serbia played Russia in Fed Cup. In that tie, Ana dropped both of her singles matches and it probably was one of the lowest moments of her career. She was in the middle of the worst part of her slump at the time. So it was nice to see her turn it around yesterday and help get Serbia the victory that they needed. Ana now travels to Stuttgart, Germany for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix this week. More on that in another post.
It is a bit ironic that Serbia makes the final of Fed Cup in a year in which Jankovic is severely slumping and Ana, while playing some good tennis as of late, still isn’t the Ivanvoic of 2007 and 2008. The country with two former world #1’s and grand slam finalists (and champion) will finally have an opportunity to bring home the title to their home country.
Highlights of Ana’s victory over Pavlyuchenkova followed by her post match interview afterwards.
(pic via Getty)