First Ball In, 6/10: Ana's Back on Top

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 /by
AP Photos
AP Photos

Tuesday Review

It’s strange to see a (1) next to Ana Ivanovic’s name—the Serb has been outside the Top 10 since June 2009, at one point falling to No. 63. Yet her nadir may have actually occurred during her halcyon days, when she was world No. 1. As the top seed at the 2008 U.S. Open, Ivanovic lost her second-round match to 188th-ranked qualifier Julie Coin. If I had a nickel for every “Coin flips” headline written that day…

But Ivanovic has been nothing if not consistent throughout the past two-and-a-half years: She’s been ranked inside the Top 20 since February 2012. Currently No. 13 and positioned atop the bracket in Birmingham, she acted like a top seed should today, winning her opener with ease, 6-4, 6-1. The win came over Mona Barthel—“a tripwire opponent in the past,” according to the AP. Probably not the adjective I’d use to describe the German, but the point was made: Ivanovic was 1-2 against Barthel, including a 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 loss last year at Indian Wells.

For may reasons, this was an important win for Ivanovic, who made a disappointing third-round exit at Roland Garros. In the past, she’s made hay on clay and been allergic to grass—Ivanovic has reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon just once. She’d like to correct that this year.

“I really hope I manage to turn that around,” she said after her win today. “On grass courts it's a lot about mentality and also the gameplan, because everything happens so fast. It's the first time I am working with my coach (Nemanja Kontic) on grass, so hopefully he can bring some innovations that will help me make that change.”

Ivanovic’s win over Serena Williams at the Australian Open showed that she remains relevant when it comes to the game’s elite. We’ve seen such scintillating performances from her sporadically over the past few years, even if serving struggles and bouts of shaken confidence periodically resurface. Still, at times Ivanovic’s game is explosively beautiful, and a blueprint for success on the ground. But her resolve has been even more impressive—she clearly loves the sport, and the competition. Just like a top seed should.

***

Ivanovic’s next opponent on turf will be Lauren Davis, who beat fellow American Victoria Duval, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2. Duval, you’ll recall, stunned Sam Stosur last year at the U.S. Open. I hadn’t heard much from the 18-year-old since then, but on Monday she upset the rapidly ascending Caroline Garcia in straights, 6-2, 6-4. It was only Duval’s second WTA-level win of the season.

***

It was a mixed bag for Les Bleus as they left France and the clay behind. Richard Gasquet, the fifth seed in Halle, lost 6-4, 6-4 to Robin Haase; at the same event, the good Gael Monfils showed up against Benjamin Becker, winning 6-1, 7-5.

At Queen’s Club, the kings of doubles at Roland Garros, Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Julien Benneteau, had mixed results in singles. (They are entered in the doubles draw, in case you’re wondering.) Roger-Vasselin defeated Evgeny Donskoy, while Benneteau lost to Victor Estrella Burgos—perhaps the only player in the Top 100 I’ve never heard of (he’s No. 95). The Dominican, who had one ATP-level win to his name in 2014, gets another Frenchman, Adrian Mannarino, next.

And let’s not forget Benoit Paire, who would love to forget his first-round match against Jarkko Nieminen, which he dropped despite holding three match points.

***

More Queen’s Club: 

—Marcos Baghdatis, now ranked No. 118, beat Bradley Klahn and will next face top seed Stan Wawrinka. Look for a feature on Baghdatis here in the near future.

—The day’s biggest upset saw Marinko Matosevic defeat former champion Marin Cilic, 6-4, 6-4. Cilic won the event in 2012 when David Nalbandian bloodied a line judge by kicking an on-court advertisement into his leg. Ah, memories.

—Another Aussie, James Duckworth, nearly supplanted Matosevic’s scalp. The qualifier took second-seeded Tomas Berdych to three sets before falling, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4.

OOP Analysis

See Wednesday’s Order of Play at Queen’s Club here, at Halle here, and at Birmingham here.

Gael Monfils vs. Kei Nishikori: This is their first-ever meeting, and a very difficult introduction to the grass-court swing for Nishikori, who we last saw in the first round of the French Open, injured in a loss to Martin Klizan.

Roger Federer/Marco Chiudinelli vs. Martin Emmrich/Andreas Seppi: Practice makes…an eighth Wimbledon title? Federer should get a few more sets on grass under his belt before SW19 with his decision to play doubles in Halle.

Lleyton Hewitt vs. Feliciano Lopez: Two aging, grass-court studs collide. Hewitt has won all four prior matches—the first in 2004, the last a decade later—including a 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 victory at Wimbledon (2005).

Paul-Henri Mathieu vs. Andy Murray: Amelie Mauresmo was a fixture in the French press after her playing career—she sat near me in the U.S. Open press room. Now, sitting courtside during Murray’s matches, she’s about to become a regular in the British press.

Christina McHale vs. Sam Stosur: McHale, despite a first-round loss in Paris, had an encouraging clay-court season. She reached the semifinals in Strasbourg, the round of 16 in Rome, and took Maria Sharapova to three sets in Madrid. Stosur was also quietly successful on the dirt, but has never been a sure thing on grass. I'm curious to see where this one goes.

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