Monday, 13 January 2014

Ana - but closer than expected

The third match hopefully would provide a better contest than those so far - Ana Ivanovic, finalist here in 2008, won in Auckland just before coming here, so was extremely confident as the 14th seed.  Her opponent from the Netherlands, Kiki Bertens, had been as high as 41 in the world but now sat at 94 - her preparation was qualifying in both Brisbane and Sydney where she failed to make either main draw.

Her play today belied that form.  The match was even from the start with both players prepared to attack, mainly from the back of the court, but where the opportunity presented itself take the net position.  Her inability to win enough points on first serve was costly in the fourth game for Kiki as she was broken to trail 3-1 and it looked as though the more experienced player at this level would take control.

Ana did hold for 4-1, but Kiki wasn't done with just yet.  Her accommodation in Melbourne was for more than one night and she proceeded to play some tennis far more suited to someone in the top twenty.  Hitting some clean winners that Ana would be pleased to call her own, Kiki not only held her serve, but broke Ana - not literally thank goodness - and the match was alive.  More alive than many of the spectators who were beginning to wilt under the heat.

Holding serve was becoming a rarity and soon Ana was serving for the set at 5-3.  Again Kiki fought back, and she gave herself the chance to level at 5-5.
Steadier under the pressure of a Grand Slam tournament, Ana broke the Dutch serve to take the entertaining first set 6-4 and earn first serving rights in the second.

If serving was meant to give one an advantage in the game of tennis then the two girls on court sure made a meal of that theory.  For six straight games, it was Kiki Bertens breaking the Ana Ivanovic serve only to hand the chance of consolidation immediately back.  Three times Ana had offered the chance - would she go a fourth?  You bet she would.  So at 4-3 and serving Kiki tried again.  After trading forehand winners and untidy errors, it was 30-30.  Then Kiki folded with a backhand far too long and a pointless (well for her but not for Ana) double fault to bring us to 4-4.

Ana decided against all that had happened to hit an ace and a service winner in the next game and service was held for the first time since the sixth game of the first set.  Hallelujahs were exchanged everywhere but the Netherlands.  Of course at 4-5 the set was officially still with serve, but Kiki was at the line and her confidence wasn't at its highest.

Having been convinced not to serve underarm (that didn't happen - her confidence wasn't completely shot really) a wonderful backhand volley by Kiki brought the game score to 30-30 and an error from Ana made it 40-30. Almost with a sense of déjà vu a double fault entered the stadium followed dutifully by a clumsy forehand and the match was over 6-4 6-4 to Serbia's and many Australians delight.

Ana was through to the second round with quite some room for improvement.  Still an entertaining first round encounter.

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