For many, Serbia making the finals was a foregone conclusion. They were heavily favored to come out of their group, and not many gave Australia much of a chance against the popular Serbian duo of Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic. The crowd in the new Perth Arena was jam-packed, with not a seat to be had. With the boisterous hometown crowd behind him, Bernard Tomic surprised everybody by taking down the world #1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets to give the hometown team the early 1-0 lead. Now down 0-1, Serbia had to not only win Ana’s singles match, but also win in mixed doubles.
With Serbia in a hole, it was up to Ana to dig themselves out of it. She took on the talented, up and coming 16 year old, Ashleigh Barty. While Barty did show some flashes of her potential, Ana showed the fans her serve is still capable of being a weapon. She hit eight aces through her first four service games, including three in a row at one point. Ana took control of the match at 2-2 by taking the next four games from there, winning the opening set 6-2. Serving up 5-1 in the second set, Ana was broken for the first time in the match, as was the case on Monday against Francesca Schiavone. She was able to close things out in her second attempt, taking the match 6-2, 6-3 to even up the tie with Australia at 1-1.
In the end, it all came down to mixed doubles, a match that would not only determine the winner of the tie, but would give the winning team control of their own destiny in regards to winning the group. It was a crucial match to say the least. It was also highly entertaining and filled with drama. Serbia took a tightly contested first set 6-4. In the second set, they found themselves with match point on four different occasions, but were unable to close the deal. One of those match points, starting at the 1:03:00 minute mark in the video below, was one of the more amazing match points you will ever see. The rally lasted 28 shots, ending with a Tomic forehand winner. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must check it out, along with the rest of the match. The Aussies would go on to take the second set in a tiebreak to force a super tiebreak to decide it all.
The super tiebreak was very tense and close until Serbia pulled away at the very end. Up 7-6 and on serve, the Serbs got two mini-breaks off of Barty’s serve and then with Ana serving, closed it out, taking the match 6-4, 6-7 (8-10), 10-6 and the tie along with it.
The ladies in this match outclassed the men. While Novak made questionable errors throughout the match, Ana was stellar, particularly at the net with her volleying. Despite playing some magnificent tennis in his upset defeat over Novak Djokovic in singles, Tomic was outshined by his partner Ashleigh Barty in doubles.
Serbia’s next opponent will be Germany on Friday night. Play begins at 5:45 PM local time, 4:45 AM EST. Djokovic will get things started in singles as he faces Tommy Haas, while Ana will follow, taking on Tatjana Malek, who’s replacing an injured Andrea Petkovic. With Serbia’s victory over Australia on Wednesday, they now control their own destiny. Beat Germany, and they’re in the finals. However, a loss and an Australian win over Italy would put the Aussies in the final. Serbia should have no problem getting through, though.
Should Serbia advance, they would get Spain in the finals. John Isner’s withdrawl today due to an knee injury, forced the US team to forfeit their tie against the Spanish team of Fernando Verdasco and Anabel Medina Garrigues. Should the Hopman Cup final come down to mixed doubles, we will get the opportunity to see Ana and Fernando Verdasco go head to head against each other. Talk about awkward.
(Image via Getty)