Ivanovic claims top-10 win in Rome
Ana Ivanovic has offered precious few opportunities for positive press regarding her tennis over the past 18 months. However, the former world No. 1’s win over Victoria Azarenka at the Italian Open yesterday finally provides a glimmer of hope that Ivanovic’s A-game is still lurking somewhere.
The Serb’s 6-4, 6-4 victory over Azarenka in Rome was her first win against a top-10 player since she defeated then ninth- ranked Vera Zvonareva to win the title at the Generali Ladies Linz in October 2008, which, incidentally, is the most recent of Ivanovic’s eight career titles.
After reaching the dizzying heights of Grand Slam champion, at Roland Garros in 2008, and the world No. 1 ranking in almost the same breath, Ivanovic’s form fell away over the course of 2009. It was a drop in form that finally manifested itself in a rankings plunge from world No. 28 to No. 58 after she was bundled out in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in 2010, a tournament where she was runner-up in 2009.
At that point things were looking pretty grim for the 26-year-old: it was the first time she’d dropped out of the top 50 since 2005; her serve, thanks largely to that wayward ball toss, was erratic; and her on-court confidence looked to have reached an all-time low as she struggled to string back-to-back victories together, something she hadn’t achieved since reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane in January.
In a bid to rejuvenate her failing career, in February – following a second round loss at the Australian Open and a winless Fed Cup tie against Russia – Ivanovic appointed Heinz Gunthardt, the man who coached Steffi Graf to 12 Grand Slam titles, as her new coach.
In the tournaments since Gunthardt’s appointment we have seen flashes of the old Ivanovic on the court but consecutive losses to top-10 player Agnieszka Radwanska at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami and the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, albeit in matches the scoreboard shows were by no means one-sided affairs, showed that Ivanovic was still lacking the consistency to finish the job.
They were losses, though, that showed a big-name win might soon be on the cards, if Ivanovic could hold her game together long enough to close out a match. Therein laid the doubt.
Ivanovic did just that against Azarenka yesterday, and recorded a confidence-boosting win in her second tournament of the year on clay, a surface that is widely regarded as her best.
"I'm very happy with this victory," Ivanovic said after the match. "I knew I had it in me, I've been improving a lot over these past few weeks, playing really well in practice and this time I was able to take something like that kind of play into a match.”
It may have been the best hour and 36 minutes of Ivanovic’s year so far, but the challenge now will be to hold her nerve against world No. 6 Elena Dementieva in the third round of the Italian Open today.
It would be premature to say Ivanovic is back on the basis of one result, but it’s fair to say the glamorous Serb is now at least making some positive steps to reviving her ailing career.