Ana Ivanovic showed her strength in a big second round at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The former number one upset top seeded Simona Halep 7-6(2), 6-2 on Centre Court Wednesday to move into her second consecutive quarterfinal.
The second round presented a huge matchup between two superstars in the sport. It was two years since the two have met dating back to the WTA championships where Ivanovic won a thriller in three sets. The Serb has been on a tear so early in the season giving the indication that her game was ready to take on anyone in the Top Ten. With her matched against the third world ranked Romanian, it would be nothing short of a challenge.
Halep hasn’t been the same since last season when she tore up the scene and then flopped in the first round of the Australian Open. After struggling through her two matches in the Fed Cup, it was a cause for concern that she’d be ready to go in this one. Her leg injury that surfaced in Toronto has had time to heal over the past four weeks. If things are good to go for her, she could be unstoppable as the defending champion of the tournament.
She broke Ivanovic in the first game as she won on her opponent’s early double fault and problems with the second serve. Halep began opening the gap after producing well on her opening serve despite an early double fault. The Serb recovered on serve holding Halep off completely in the third to notch on to her name. Before the fourth game could get underway, rain began to fall on court causing a 17 minute delay to dry it all off.
Halep returned to serve where she held off the rush from the Serb to force deuce and win on the break. The Romanian’s attempts to win another on the break were challenged by Ivanovic who fought for control on deuce winning it after three breaks. The Serb voiced her opinions to her coach Nigel Sears that the ground behind the baseline was slippery. The ground crew made an adjustment during the break that made things slightly more suitable.
Halep got into a deep fight that had a tie in the works for Ivanovic. The Serb had many chances to lock up a chance to level with the Romanian but after five breaks, the opportunities were gone as Halep lead by two games. The Serb answered with another love serve to Halep that had her back in reach. An easy hold for Halep in the eighth gave her a second straight service game that opened the window to take the set on the return.
Ivanovic closed the door on Halep with a strong game on serve hoping that she could break the top seed. Critical mistakes on the count of Halep gave Ivanovic life to fight on the deuce draw. It ended quickly with another unforced error that sent the opening set into extra games.
The Serb gained the lead in the eleventh with huge shots on service that allowed her to show some dictation against the serve of Halep. She was no match against the Romanian who forced a tiebreaker by landing an ace on the double game point. Halep opened scoring with a point on the return but she got out of sorts as Ivanovic blasted away to a 3-1 hold.
She kept Halep at bay allowing her just a point before winning the tiebreaker 6-2. The comeback that Serb pulled off had her running on all cylinders going into the second set. She finished the first with a first serve percentage of 64 landing 17 winners. Halep’s 23 total unforced errors and lack of winners had her showing signs of struggle once again.
She held things together through the first four games trading off wins before a hold by Ivanovic in the fifth had her hunting to attack forward growing a gap between her and Halep. Ivanovic was storming to a quarterfinal appearance after breaking Halep in the seventh to take a two game winning streak and serve for the big win over the Romanian. She got to match point at 40-30 where a serve across court got shot into the net by Halep ending a 1 hour and 52 minute battle.
“It was a very tough match,” Ivanovic said to Chris Badman during her on court interview. “ The first set was a great battle. Simona is a great player and playing really strong lately so I had to raise my game and I did and it was one the best matches I’ve played and I’m really thrilled to be through.”
She’ll go against Barbora Strycova on Thursday who she has faced before but felt that she wouldn’t have problems against her. “I don’t think about who I’m facing,” Ivanovic said. “I just hope to have a great match and see what I can do against her.”