Racquet Reaction

Stuttgart: Ivanovic d. Jankovic

Saturday, April 26, 2014 /by
AP
AP

The blue Porsche parked behind the corner of the court overlooked her shoulder as Ana Ivanovic revved another flat forehand that left Jelena Jankovic lunging at air. In an all-Serbian semifinal of former world No. 1 players, Ivanovic drove the ball down the line convincingly powering past Jankovic, 6-3, 7-5, to reach into her third final of the season in Stuttgart.

Transforming the red clay court into a passing line, Ivanovic scored her third straight victory over a former Stuttgart champion following three-set conquests of 2011 champion Julia Goerges and 2009 titlist Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals. The 12th meeting between Serbian rivals featured stylistic contrasts pitting Ivanovic's power and forehand against Jankovic's movement and two-handed backhand as each woman tried to play patterns to their strengths. Ivanovic not only imposed her forehand on the match, she did more damage with her weaker backhand wing than Jankovic did off her forehand.

Jankovic's .715 career clay-court winning percentage is fourth-best among active women behind only Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams. The 2008 champion remains one of the smoothest movers on the Tour, but often looked rushed as Ivanovic beat her with the pace and depth of her forehand.

The ninth seed blistered a pair of forehand return winners to earn triple break point then rattled Jankovic's racquet with a deep forehand crosscourt to break for 3-1. Rallying from 15-30 down, Ivanovic hit successive serve winners to back up the break. Jankovic called out brother, and coach, Marko for some advice and stress relief while the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" blared over the sound system. Hitting with more conviction, Jankovic swept a forehand pass to hold for 2-4, raising her arms and grinning after digging out of a 0-30 hole, but couldn't close the gap as Ivanovic won eight of the last 10 points on her serve in closing out the opening set.

Regrouping, Jankovic saved a break point to open the second set then broke for the only time in the match, to take a 2-0 lead. Punishing a series of deep returns, Ivanovic immediately broke back at love.

The serve was an authoritative weapon when Ivanovic won the 2008 Roland Garros and rose to world No. 1, but in subsequent seasons she's sometimes struggled to control her wayward toss that can veer to the right. That wasn't an issue today. Ivanovic used the slider serve on the deuce side effectively set up her forehand strike: She won 16 of 18 points played on her serve at one stretch during the second set and prevailed on 73 percent of her second-serve points, while Jankovic won 48 percent of her second-serve points.

Precision is typically a Jankovic asset, but after spending so much time forced to counter off her back foot she tried beating Ivanovic to the punch and squeezing shots closer to the lines. Scattering her fourth double fault followed by an errant backhand, Jankovic dropped serve at 15 to trail 5-6, but she wasn't done yet. Digging in, Jankovic saved a pair of match points, rolled her left ankle and crashed to the court to face a third match point that she fought off winning a 25-shot rally. Ivanovic closed the one hour, 28-minute match when Jankovic netted a forehand as the pair engaged in a cordial post-match handshake.

"In the tight situations, I really tried to step in — that's my game — and I did that well," said Ivanovic, who raised her record to 9-3 against her rival.

Playing for her third title of the season — and the keys to that Porsche — Ivanovic will face two-time defending champion Sharapova, who has won seven of their nine career meetings, in Sunday's final.

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