After playing each other five times in 2014, it’s take until August of 2015 for another Serena-Ana match. For a time this didn’t look likely… Ivanovic made a woeful start to her third round match against Sloane Stephens, quickly going down 4-0 and losing the first set, 6-2. Stephens didn’t do anything special but played a smart set. The fact that Ivanovic hadn’t played in Cincy yet was certainly telling in the first set. Ivanovic settled into a rhythm on her serve in the second set and stayed ahead up to the talking point of this match. Ivanovic and Stephens played out a fantastic 14-deuce game where Ivanovic had NINE break points. After the match, she giggled with the interviewer and said “I do not want to know how many break points I had in that game!”.
Although Sloane was clutch to hold that game it was Ivanovic who powered through afterwards, winning eight of the next nine games to seal a 2-6 6-4 6-1 victory. Ivanovic played well in the third set, finally getting her game going. Based on how the match unfolded, i’d go as far to say this was one of her best wins of the year. For Sloane, that third set went by far too fast. She was passive, kept going long when she tried to take the ball on and there was nothing on the serve. I admit that i’ve been on a bit of a bandwagon with Sloane… it pretty much just careered off the tracks into the abyss! Hopefully she will learn from this one and although it didn’t really happen on this occasion, Stephens has shown a lot more fight in matches this year. Even against Mona Barthel in the second round (won 3-6 7-6 6-2), that was a probably a match that she would have lost last year. There’s still plenty to work on but the signs are still promising.
Serena Williams has had a drama-free week so far with straight set wins over Tsvetana Pironkova (7-5 6-3) and Karin Knapp (6-0 6-2). It’s impossible to call Serena’s next move… i’ve been waiting for a withdrawal but who knows what will happen. Serena leads the head-to-head against Ana, 8-1. They played some good matches last year; Ivanovic claimed a monumental win at the Australian Open and although Serena won their next four clashes, two of them did go the distance. Ivanovic’s flat out aggression on the return has helped to make these matches intriguing
Serena and Ana played in the Cincy final last year where Serena prevailed, 6-4 6-1. I’d expect something similar with this one unless Peak Ana makes an appearance. Hopefully it will be a good one as it’s at a reasonable time for me at 6pm UK time!