It has been little over four years since Ana last reached a quarterfinal at a slam, and she will be looking to end the drought next week in Flushing Meadows. Given her draw, this may be her best opportunity to do so in sometime.
Ivanovic will open her 2012 US Open campaign playing a qualifier in the opening round. Qualifiers will be placed into the main draw over the weekend. The winner of the Kimiko Date-Krumm/Sofia Arvidsson first round match would play Ana in the second round, assuming Ana gets through her own first match. Francesca Schiavone, Sloane Stephens, Akgul Amanmuradova or another qualifier are possible third round opponents. Caroline Wozniacki would likely await in the fourth round, with Serena Williams as Ana’s most likely quarterfinal opponent. All things considered, this is about as good of a draw Ana could have asked for, at least for the first four rounds, which is all most Ana fans really care about at this point.
One has to figure Ana shouldn’t have much problems getting through the first couple of rounds. Ivanovic holds a 4-0 career record versus Kimiko Date-Krumm, winning their last three meetings pretty decisively, all which occurred last season. Ana also leads the head-to-head over her friend Sofia Arvidsson 3-1, with her only loss occurring back in 2003. Neither pose a huge threat at the moment.
For me, the match that could spell trouble for Ana is a potential third round clash with American Sloane Stephens. While Francesca Schiavone is the seeded player in that section of the draw, I expect Stephens to knock her out in round one. As you may recall, Ivanovic and Stephens met in the 3rd round last year at the US Open, a match in which Ana won 6-3, 6-4. Stephens is a much improved player since then and playing in front of a partisan home crowd could also help. This is a much more dangerous match than it initially appears to be.
As the fourth round is concern, this has been Ana’s major road block the past four years at the slams. Since winning the French Open in June of 2008, Ana has made it to the fourth round on six different occasions, losing every single time. Lets not kid ourselves though, it hasn’t been easy for Ana in any of those matches. In those six fourth round defeats, Ana has lost to Venus and Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Petra Kvitova and Viktoria Azarenka twice. Being seeded 12th at this years US Open, Ana finally avoided drawing a top four seed at the midway point of a slam. Instead, she’ll receive a 5-8 seed, and probably got the most winnable match of the four in Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki has struggled finding her own form for much of this season, and is dealing with a knee injury sustained today in New Haven, though she continued playing and won handily. Ana defeated Wozniacki earlier this season at Indian Wells, in what was perhaps Ana’s strongest performance of the year. Wozniacki will be a challenge no doubt, and the favorite if the two were to meet. However, it’s a very winnable match for Ana, who could have drawn Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber or defending US Open champion Samantha Stosur in this round instead.
If everything goes well and Ana finally ends her 17-slam streak of not making a quarterfinal, it will be Serena Williams standing in Ana’s way to reach the semi’s. Lets be real here, Ana ain’t beating Serena. I don’t see anybody beating Serena, at least not until the finals. She is my pick to win it all. If Ana is fortunate enough to reach this point, the US Open is a huge success, regardless. So lets not even worry about anything beyond the fourth round.
There are still big question marks concerning Ana’s form and health going into the US Open, however. While this looks like a good draw on paper, it certainly doesn’t mean it will translate into wins. Ana’s form has has been really shaky since the French Open and she is coming off a double bagel defeat to Roberta Vinci in Montreal. Where is Ana’s confidence at this point? How about her health? Ana was forced to withdraw from Cincinnati prior to the start of the tournament due to a right foot injury. While it doesn’t seem serious and she is expected to play in New York, her preparation period sure has taken a bit of a hit with a lack of practice time over the past week, and even more importantly, lack of match play over the course of the past month. These are two issues that stop and make you pause when trying to decipher Ana’s draw and where she will ultimately finish.
Given these question marks, it makes predicting Ana’s performance at this year’s US Open tricky. She is already an unpredictable player to begin with. We have seen her draw open up at slams in the past only for her to fail to take advantage. So while she has a favorable draw this time around, nothing is guaranteed. Especially when we’re talking about Ana. If Ana is healthy and finds the form she had for much of the first half of the season, I believe she has a great shot at finally reaching a slam quarterfinal for the first time since 2008. If not, then a upset is in the cards. In the end, it all comes down to which Ana we get.
As for final predictions, my gut feeling is that Sloane Stephens will defeat Ana in round three. I really hope I am wrong, but the past two months has casted too much doubt, and there are just too many question marks for me too feel confident enough to say Ana will finally get to that elusive slam quarterfinal we’ve been waiting for these past four years. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly believe she can, and hope that she does, but I’m just not feeling it quite yet. Then again, I am horrible with predictions, so this is probably good thing.