For the second consecutive year, Ana Ivanovic has made it into the second week of the Australian Open. She is back into the fourth round after a 7-5, 6-3 victory over rival and compatriot Jelena Jankovic.
Ana got to this stage with wins over Melinda Czink and Yung-Jan Chan in the first two rounds. Ivanovic made it through her first round match against Czink with relative ease, however, her second round match against Yung-Jan Chan was anything but easy. Chan won more points overall in the match, while Ana hit into 49 unforced errors. Ana struggled to find her form all match, with her backhand sending the ball everywhere but inside the lines. Despite all this, she ultimately prevailed in three sets. It was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless, and it set the stage for a third round showdown with Jelena Janovic.
Ivanvoic and Jankovic have quite a history with each other, both having once being #1 and #2 in the world respectively at the same time. We all know about their rivalry and past relationship with each other, but this time things felt different. The two are on much friendlier terms now than they were a couple of years ago, and both are in a struggle to get themselves back to the tennis mountaintop. The two used to meet in the later rounds of tournaments, but here they were, facing of against each other in the third round of the 2013 Australian Open.
Despite having played each other ten times before, this was only their second ever meeting at a slam. The only other occurrence was when they met in the 2008 French Open semis, a match that would determine the new world #1. Of course, Ivanovic won that match in a three set thriller and she would go on to win her first and only grand slam title of her career just two days later. A lot has changed since then, and this time around, rather than fighting for a spot in the final or a slam, they were just trying to get into the second week of one.
In a topsy-turvy first set, Ana found herself with a 5-2 lead, serving for the set. After grabbing a 30-0 lead on her serve, suddenly things begin fell apart for Ivanovic. She would go on to lose the next 15 points and find herself leveled at 5-all with Jankovic. After Jankovic jumped ahead to a 40-0 lead on her own serve, Ana came back winning the next five points to break JJ, and once again, put herself in a position to serve things out. The third time was the charm and Ana took the opening set 7-5.
Ana’s game improved in the second set as she got the early break at 2-1. From there, she never looked back as she got her serving yips under control. Ana took the second set 6-3 to take the match in straight sets. With this victory, Ana now owns a 8-3 lifetime record over Jankovic.
Ana is now 17-5 at the slams under Nigel Sears and has made at least the 4th round in five of her last six majors. With a win this weekend, Ivanovic will make her second straight slam quarterfinal appearance, after having gone 17 consecutive slams without one. In order to get there, she’ll have to beat world #4 Agnieszka Radwanska.
Radwanska will be coming into this match on a 12 match winning streak, having not dropped a single set all year. She already has two titles this season (Auckland and Sydney), and she’s looking for her first ever grand slam title. Ivanovic is 3-4 lifetime against the Pole, having lost their previous four meetings. This will be a very difficult task for Ana as Radwanska’s crafty game could give Ana a lot of fits. Ana will be a considerable underdog, but if she plays to her best ability, she will have a chance of pulling off the upset. I would definitely give Ana a better shot at advancing than if she had played Sharapova, Williams or Azarenka in this round. While those three would be able to hit Ana off the court, Radwanska can’t. However, Radwanska’s tennis is so skillful and crafty that it could easily throw Ana off her game, more so than a big hitter like Sharapova, Serena or Azarenka would. That being said, the other three have been so dominant so far this week, I would have a difficult time seeing Ana beating any of them. She at least has a chance against Radwanska, even though I would pick Radwanska to win in straight sets over Ana.
Ana is long overdue for a big win at a slam. The last time she defeated someone ranked inside the top 10 at a major was Jelena Jankovic in the 2008 French Open semis. Ana will have her opportunity this Sunday to end yet another slam drought. This is an enormous opportunity for Ana to get 2013 off to a momentous start. A win over Radwanska could set the tone for the next couple of months and the season.
(image via getty)