2012 was a year of progress for Ana at the slams. She made the fourth round at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, before finally ending her quarterfinal drought at the majors by making the round of eight in Flushing Meadows. Can she continue to make progress in 2013? That is the question every Ana fan is asking heading into the Australian Open. Ana will have her work cut out for her if she is to go a round farther this year and make her second consecutive slam quarterfinal. Here is the draw. My thoughts on it below.
Ana will begin her Aussie Open campaign against Melinda Czink. Ivanovic is 3-1 lifetime against the Hungarian, but lost their last meeting in Cincinnati back in 2009. On paper, this is a match Ana should get through without much problem, but Czink is a lefty, and Ana has a tendency to struggle against lefties. That being said, I would be surprise if Ana lost this one.
Five years ago, Ana Ivanovic and Daniela Hantuchova met in the Australian Open semifinals. Ivanovic came back from a 0-6, 0-2 deficit to win 0-6 6-3 6-4. Aside from Ana’s comeback victory, this match is also best remembered as “Squeakgate”. Squeaky shoes aside, it was one of Ana’s biggest wins of her career and her most memorable moment from down under. The two have met three times since then on three different surfaces. Ana has won two of their last three meetings at Fed Cup (clay) in 2011 and in Miami (hard court) last year, while losing the other in Birmingham (grass) back in 2011. This will be their first meeting at a slam since they met here five years ago. Hantuchova, who was once coached by Ana’s current mentor Nigel Sears, will be a tough out. Ivanovic is definitely the favorite here, but it won’t be easy. I think Ana gets through this match in three sets.
If Ana is able to get over her first two hurdles, she could meet a familiar foe in round three, her Serbian compatriot Jelena Jankovic. These two rivals once faced off in the later rounds of the bigger tournaments (i.e. the 2008 French Open), but times have changed and this time around we could see the two clash in the first week. The rivalry is not what is used to be, and neither are the two players games. What would have been a top-billing match just a few years ago is not so much today. Still, it is always noteworthy whenever these two meet on the tennis court and it will be an interesting match-up should these two meet in the third round, for good or bad.
Rivalry aside, it’s a pretty good match-up for Ana. She’s 7-3 lifetime against Jankovic, winning their last meeting in Indian Wells two years ago. Jankovic has also really struggled with her form for much of the past two years. While Ana isn’t exactly what she was a few years ago, she hasn’t fallen off nearly as much as Jankovic has. You got to like Ana’s chances here if the two were to face off. Other possible third round opponents for Ana would be Johanna Larsson, who defeated Ivanovic in the first round of the 2011 French Open, or a qualifier.
Ivanovic’s Australian Open run came to an end in the fourth round a year ago with a 6-2, 7-6 loss to the the world #2 Petra Kvitova. Should Ana get back to this point this year, she will likely once again go up against another top seeded player, this time being world #4 Agnieszka Radwanska. Radwanska is off to a hot start in 2013, having won the tournament in Auckland and is currently in the finals in Sydney. Radwanska has also won her last four matches against Ivanovic, so this would certainly be a tough one for Ana to get. Given that the other three possible fourth round opponents Ana could have received were Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova, this is not the worst option. I think Ana has a chance, albeit a small one against Radwanska, whereas she wouldn’t have much of one against Azarenka or Williams. A win here would be just the kind of victory to get her 2013 season off on the right track, but I have a difficult time seeing it happening. You never know, though.
Beyond the fourth round, Ana could see Li Na or Sam Stosur in the quarters and then Maria Sharapova in the semis, but since I am not expecting Ana to get that far, there’s really no point in talking about it.
For me, a successful tournament would be defending her fourth round points from last year. Anything less than that would be an obvious disappointment. I think she does it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she was upset beforehand. Nothing surprises me anymore. Overall, I think it’s not such a bad draw and if Ana plays her game they way she is capable of, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t reach the midway point of the tournament. Unless Ana’s draw breaks in the way that it did during the US Open, don’t expect her to go any further in Melbourne than she did last year.