Ana’s stay in Stuttgart was a short one, as she was ousted in the 1st round by Mona Barthel, 7-5, 7-6 (4). In what was a tightly contested match, Ana was unable to take advantage of her opportunities when she had them, and in the end, it ultimately cost her.
I did not see much of the first set, but I did catch the final few games. Ivanovic was serving for the opening set, up 5-3; 30-0. Unfortunately, she was unable to close it out and was broken. In the next game, back on serve, Ana again had opportunities to clinch the 1st set. She had herself three set points on Mona Barthel’s serve, only to not convert on any of them. There really wasn’t much Ana could do on those points. Barthel smashed three aces to save those set points and eventually evened the set up at 5 all. Barthel then went on to break Ana again and held on to take the first set 7-5.
The quality of play improved in the second set. Ana served very well, not facing a single break point on her serve the entire set. All she needed was one break to take this match to a decisive 3rd set. She had a few opportunities to do so, but couldn’t convert on the three break points in total she had throughout the set. With neither player being able to break the others serve, they went to a tiebreak. While the two exchanged a couple of mini-breaks early on in the breaker, it was Barthel who eventually gained the upper hand and closed out the tiebreak, winning it 7-4.
For Ana, it’s a disappointing to start to the clay season, with another loss in Stuttgart. She now holds a 1-4 record at the German WTA tournament. It’s a match she probably should have won; at least the 1st set. That being said, you have to give Barthel credit. She played very well, hitting some clean and very powerful winners, along with 11 aces in total for the match. Those aces came at important times too, such as saving those set points or at times in the 2nd set when she was down in her own service game, with Ana looking to grab a break. Mona Barthel has had a good year and has the talent to make it to the top 10 someday. Don’t be surprised if she finds herself in the WTA top 20 soon. She has the game and the weapons, she just needs to find the consistency. Her game is very hit and miss at the moment, even in today’s match. So it wasn’t that bad of a loss for Ana. An upset? Yes. But not a big upset. The result really didn’t surprise me.
Luckily for Ana, she had no points to defend, having not played here last year. Her next stop will be Madrid, which begins next Saturday. It’s a premier mandatory event, so lots of points will be at stake. It will be important for her to play well and achieve a few good results there and in Rome before heading to Roland Garros for the French Open. She needs to build some momentum and confidence on clay before arriving to Paris.
On a side note, I would suggest all Ana fans to check out this MUST READ new interview Ravi Ubha did with Ana Ivanovic for ESPN. Lots of new and interesting quotes from her and Nigel. She talks about the burden she sometimes feel that comes with being a professional tennis player, her various coaching changes and work with Nigel, and life after tennis. Really intriguing stuff.
(Pic via Getty)