It’s a rare occurrence when you get to the third round at a tournament and one player has played two matches and the other one hasn’t even stepped onto the court yet. Ana Ivanovic is into the third round of Cincy without playing a match. In the first round she received a bye and in the second round she benefitted from a walkover after Venus Williams was forced to pull out of the tournament due to a viral illness. Ivanovic reached the quarter-finals of Toronto last week with victories over Olga Govortsova (6-4 7-6) and Polona Hercog (6-2 6-3) before falling to eventual champion, Belinda Bencic in the last eight.
Ivanovic plays Sloane Stephens who has had two decent wins to reach the third round of Cincy for the fourth consecutive year. She’s yet to break into a quarter-final though. Stephens saw off Carla Suárez Navarro with a measured display in the first round, 6-1 6-2 and then came from behind to beat Mona Barthel in three sets, 3-6 7-6(1) 6-2. The last time Sloane and Mona played was in Charleston where the German player produced one of her best displays of the year to win in straight sets. It looked like events were repeating themselves early on with Mona playing a superb first set. However, Stephens mounted a comeback. It sounds like Barthel faded from the second set tiebreak onwards.
As always, Nick Saviano came on at the changeover after the first set and was so positive in his advice. It didn’t look like Sloane was taking it on but the scoreline suggests she did. Nick always repeats himself with the “fight for every point” talk but it really does seem to be doing the job. I admit i’m sold on the Sloane bandwagon. I have written some negative things about Sloane in the past before but i’m excited for her recent turnaround. It’s not just been one result as she has put together a very solid year up till now.
Ivanovic leads Stephens, 2-1 in their head-to-head. Ivanovic won their first two matches which were both at the US Open. Stephens has improved in each match, losing in straight sets in the first match, nicking a set in the second one and then scoring a win in their third clash, a 7-6(3) 6-4 victory at Indian Wells last year. Ivanovic remains unconvincing to me and while she will be fresh, I think it goes in Stephens’s favour that she has played two matches. The win over Barthel, coming from behind, will also have been a confidence booster. I’m feeling Sloane for this one and in straight sets too…