2014/11/28

Wawrinka stuns Djokovic in Epic Five-Set Battle at Australian Open

 

Stan Wawrinka

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 21, 2014) MELBOURNE – A place in the Australian Open 2014 semifinals awaits an eager Stanislas Wawrinka after battling through five, gruelling sets and shaking off cramps toward the end of the fifth to dethrone defending champion Novak Djokovic in a four hour, heart-stopping upset, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7.

 

It would be an understatement to suggest the epic quarterfinal rematch merely lived up to the hype of the past couple of days, the Swiss rapidly gaining momentum in the third set when he began to really dictate play during the long, testing rallies.

 

Sometimes forcing the error off his opponent and, at other times, sticking it out until Djokovic faltered under the pressure of a critical point, this was how Wawrinka won the majority of his points throughout the match – neither player hitting many successful winners on the whole which made for a different kind of match to watch. The Swiss’ fine service combined with consistent returns upon Djokovic’s first serves gave him an edge over his more highly ranked opponent.

 

The Serbian put it down to a mental edge and a bigger serve, also perceiving Wawrinka to have better handled the big stage in comparison to their meeting in Melbourne the previous year.

 

“He served extremely well from the beginning to the end. Every time he was in trouble, he was coming up with big serves,” Djokovic said, reflecting on the match shortly afterwards.

 

​”He took his opportunities. He deserved this win today. I congratulate him absolutely. There is nothing I can say, you know, I gave it my best. I gave it all… I tried to fight until the last point as I did in a very similar match we had last year in the fourth round, same court, but it wasn’t to be this time.

 

“These are kind of matches that you work for, you live for, you practice for… I gave my best. It wasn’t enough.”

 

The Serbian did, after all, execute his game to perfection in the opening set. He pressed himself forward to the net and exhibited some beautiful drop shots and winner volleys which sent Wawrinka scrambling to no avail.

 

Once the Swiss found his rhythm and his killer backhand began to explode off his racquet, there was no stopping him. Djokovic was forced to go for big shots but was uncharacteristically inconsistent as his errors continued to accumulate. And no wonder, when he had over 200 km/hr serves hurling down at him including an abundance of aces; 17 serves with which the Serbian could not even make contact.

 

“After losing two times against him at Grand Slams in five sets, I’m really happy to take that one. It’s great for me,” an excited Wawrinka said following his recovery ice bath after the match.

 

​​”It was a really tough battle. I started to cramp a little bit (in the) middle of fifth set, so I had to deal with that. I had to relax a little bit more. I was returning well. I had to do more with my serve, mix it up more, and stay really aggressive.

 

​”In the last one, He missed easy shots. But, in general, in the fifth set I think I went for it.”

 

With an extraordinarily strong top 5 or 6 contenders dominating the men’s field over the past decade or so, Wawrinka has found himself, time and time again, being beaten down by the best of the best. When describing how he felt after Tuesday night’s special victory, he could not help but smile with a glimmer of pride.

 

“​It’s never easy. I have had so many losses against them, it’s always a tough challenge to play them. But, you know, I think last year I took a lot of confidence out of the match with Novak. It was really close. I was playing good. We always have some great battles. I came out on the court tonight with a lot of confidence in myself knowing that, if I play my best game, I always have a chance against him.

 

“I had to fight within myself to fight against him and… that meant being really aggressive, to serve better. That’s what I did. That’s why I won the match tonight.”

 

He will enter his semifinal on Thursday with heightened trust in his own game plan, set to face Tomas Berdych who defeated David Ferrer in four sets earlier that day.

 

​”He’s going to be a tough player to beat. He already made one final in one slam. He already made semifinals in every Grand Slam. So he’s there. He’s really close to the top, top guys. It’s going to be a tough battle.”

 

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Bouchard Upsets Ivanovic to Gain Spot in AustraliaA Open Semis

Eugenie Bouchard volley

 

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 21, 2014)MELBOURNE – With the Genie Army on court side cheering her every move, 19-year-old Eugenie Bouchard upset former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in three sets, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, which should boost her ranking up into the top 20 come the end of the tournament.

 

The first Canadian to have reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Patricia Hy-Boulais in 1992, Bouchard worked towards disturbing the momentum of an ever so confident Ivanovic following on from the Serbian’s shock upset of No. 1 Serena Williams earlier in the week.

 

The two women had encountered one another previously, on which occasion Bouchard had clinched the match in straight sets. So the mature, young Canadian was fairly confident that sticking to her own game while playing more aggressively would enable her to pose a significant threat to Ivanovic despite her opponent’s recent success.

 

“I think it was really just staying with her, battling,” Bouchard said, reflecting upon the key aspects which led to her winning the match.

 

“I played her once last year. I feel like she’s playing at a much higher level right now. I know she won a tournament early this year. She was playing really well. I just had to stay with her and try to control the point a little bit more. I think late in the second set I decided to use my forehand a little bit more and I think that worked well.

 

“I tried to be aggressive. Obviously it’s good to mix it up, but I think I just really try to take the ball early. I think that’s good because it takes away time from the opponent. She has less time to guess where I’m going or try to read where I’m going. I think that’s an advantage I try to use on the court.

 

“​In the point, I really just want to play my game, be aggressive, take it to my opponent and not just wait around for opportunities. I think it’s a good thing to take my chances when I’m on the court.”

 

Upon losing the first set where Ivanovic squeezed in a break at the very last minute while the Canadian made a string of poorly timed unforced errors, Bouchard maintained composure and exhibited poise beyond her years to rise to a 3-1 lead in the second.

 

Up a break, Bouchard did not allow even a brief medical timeout – during which Ivanovic received massage treatment to her thigh from her trainer – to distract her from her purpose. While the Serbian was determined to prevent the match from progressing into three sets, Bouchard seized three break point opportunities at 5-5. She followed through by launching a forehand winner, setting it up perfectly to serve out the set. Ivanovic double faulted under the pressure of set point to hand Bouchard the second, 7-5.

 

It was not until the third decider, however, that Bouchard really upped the ante. A star quality was brought out in her game, presenting a rather similar aura to that which had shone through in Ivanovic’s game earlier that week when rising to the occasion against Williams.

 

​”There are crazy ups and downs in matches all the time. You never know. Even if you’re up, you can still lose. ​I think I handled it well today, being up. I just kept trying to play and kept trying to put pressure.

 

​”I think the matches I had last year on the big, centre courts, like Sharapova at the French Open and Ivanovic at Wimbledon, just being on those big stages gave me a lot of experience. Now walking out on centre court in Australia, I feel like I’ve been here before. I’ve been able to perform on big stages well. It gives me that extra confidence.”

 

Bouchard next faces the world No. 4 Li Na in the semifinals, who cruised through her own quarterfinal match against Flavia Pennetta in straight sets.

 

“She’s a great champion,” Bouchard said.

 

“She’s won a slam, as well. It’s going to be really tough. I played her once in Montréal two years ago and we had a close match. But it was one of my first bigger matches, so​ it will be interesting to play her again. I know she’s very solid, very good from the back. It’s going to be hard, but I’m looking forward to it.

 

“I’m just going to try my best. Even if I’m down, I always fight.”

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Li Na Cruises into Australian Open Semis

LiNaMontreal

(January 21, 2014) World No. 4 Li Na has moved into her fourth Australian Open semifinal in the last five years by crushing Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-2 on Tuesday in Melbourne.

After dismissing the two youngest competitors in the opening rounds of Melbourne, Li escaped the third round by saving a match point against Lucie Safarova.

“After saving the match point, I think I got a lot of confidence,” Li said in her on-court interview after the 67-minute match. “Even more belief in myself.”

It was a match between a pair of “thirty-somethings” and Pennetta commented on what she thinks keeps them going.

“I think we still working in a good way,” she said.  “We try to have a good team with us.  They can help us in every moment.

“Is good to see older player, no, in the court and fighting.  Today I think she was perfect in everything.  I mean, I didn’t have a lot of chance at all.”

Li responded to a question about her dominance throughout the match: “I think I prepare for at least like one and a half day to prepare for this match.  I know she was a tough opponent because I was play her four time.  Every time was like tough, you know.

“I don’t know what happen today.  Maybe I just play so well.  And, yeah, or maybe I try to prepare for the match before I come to the court.”

Li jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first set, but the 28th seeded Pennetta saved herself from being shut out of the set by taking the next two games in the 35 minute set.

Li jumped out to 4-0 lead in the second set and a succession of forehand errors gave the Italian her first game of the second set on a break of serve.

Two-time Australian Open finalist Li will play the winner of the quarterfinal between Ana Ivanovic and Eugenie Bouchard. Li lost to Victoria Azarenka in the 2013 final and to Kim Clijsters in 2011.

The 31-year-old is now 9-0 for 2014. She defended the title in Shenzhen to begin the year.

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Roger Federer Beats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to Reach Australian Open Quarterfinals

Federer 3

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 20, 2014) MELBOURNE – Without having dropped even a single set on his road to the quarterfinals, Roger Federer has set up yet another clash with old rival Andy Murray this Wednesday after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, on Monday night.

 

The crowd roared in anticipation of the first true high-profile match of the tournament. From the get-go, Federer was focused in the moment, reading the motion of the ball and setting up opportunities to approach the net for cross-court winner volleys. The serve and volley tactics, reminiscent of his earlier days in the field, became a theme of his service games and saw him to hold each and every one of his serves.

 

Tsonga began attacking Federer’s backhand which was perhaps not at its strongest that evening. But with the exception of seizing a couple of break point opportunities here and there, Tsonga did not come close to backing up such chances at crucial moments or breaking ahead to a comfortable position on the scoreboard.

 

The former world No. 1 exhibited elegant shot-making of astounding precision and it was refreshing to watch him mix in the occasional net play rather than remain baseline bound for which he has become known in more recent times.

 

While Tsonga hit some breathtaking winners, he was shockingly inconsistent, claiming only about half of the points upon his second serve, and he failed to play anywhere near aggressively enough to pose any threat to the great Roger Federer.

 

“Don’t think I got broken today. That, against a great player. So I’m extremely happy with how things went for me tonight. I was able to play my game, offensive, mix it up, come to the net,” Federer said.

 

“I was good at net. I was consistent. I was solid. I was quick. I had the right mindset. I think the plan definitely worked out well for me tonight.

 

“I definitely felt like momentum was on my side, no doubt. I started the match well.”

 

This rising momentum worked against the Frenchman as the crowd often began to applaud a would-be-winner of Tsonga’s only to disband into a thrill of cheers as Federer would somehow manage to hit the ball back over the net.

 

Federer, however, identified some aspects of his game he could indeed improve on moving forward.

“I had some missed opportunities midway through the second set. I think I twice had 0-30, so I thought I could have done a bit better. But Jo did well to hang around and serve well when he had to.”

 

Reaching the quarterfinal round at the Australian Open for the eleventh year straight, the Swiss will contest Murray for a position in the semifinals. Federer is eagerly awaiting the challenge.

 

​”I think we’re both coming into this match with a good feeling. We’re both coming into this match, though, with some doubts slightly. I don’t know how he’s feeling. I haven’t seen him play much, to be quite honest.

 

“​It will be interesting because we both had an interesting year last year with some ups and downs. It’s a good start to the season for both of us already.”

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray Win Tough Challenges to Advance in Melbourne

Nadal fingers

(January 20, 2014) No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 4 Andy Murray survived challenges from opponents to move into the Australian Open quarterfinals on Monday.

Nadal beat a tough Kei Nishikori 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (3).  Nadal survived a fall in the first set in which he broke his shoelace and had to get shoes from his locker, two breaks of serve in the final set and being called for time violation.

“We need referees who understand the game,” said Nadal in regard to his time violation.  “The rules cannot go against the good show.  That’s all.

“If you are playing with 40 degrees, you cannot expect to have 20 seconds recover, 25 seconds recover.  If you are playing crazy rallies, you cannot have 25 seconds recover because then you will not have more rallies because the players cannot have it.  So that goes against the fans, against the show.

“But I repeat:  nothing against the rules.  I accept the rules.  Sometimes I am wrong.  Sometimes I am too slow and I accept that.  I respect the decision of the referee even if I am not happy for that, because was not the right moment to do it, in my opinion, before an advise.  But she did.  That’s all.

“I going to try to go quicker for the future.  But is important to have people on the chair that really understand the game and people who manage this sport who understand the game, and that’s it.

“Because, if not, every time with Hawk Eye, the referee just start watching the watch, 25 seconds, then warning, so then we don’t need any more referees.  We only need lines.  That’s fine.

“Because if not, the referees don’t need to do all the rules.  That is my feeling.  We are making the referees worse than before with all the things that we are making for them easier.”

Nadal praised his opponent who gave him all he could handle for over three hours.

“Kei played fantastic match, in my opinion,” said Nadal.  “Just a few mistakes in some moments that was tough ones.  But for the rest, he played very aggressive, he went for the shots.  He came on court with determination to take the ball very early and go for the winners.

“He really had the right feelings to do it.  So just was a tough match, a very important win.  Very happy.”

Murray 88

Andy Murray failed to capitalize on four match points in the third set before dismissing lucky loser Stephane Robert of France 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-2.

In a rare show of frustration, Murray smashed his racquet after the third set.

“Sometimes it’s necessary,’ Murray said with a smile.  “I had I think three match points.  I put a lot of hard work into that third set.  I maybe lost concentration when I served for it.

“In the tiebreak I didn’t lose concentration.  I just missed a couple of shots, one just wide on a forehand I hit clean, just missed.

“Then losing that set was frustrating because it obviously means you’re out there another 30, 40 minutes at least, when I would preferably had been in the locker room.

“My racquet bit the dust.  Unfortunate for it.  But, yeah, I was glad I managed to start well in the fourth.”

 

Despite Roger Federer’s fall in the rankings to No. 6, Murray expects a tough contest.

“I mean, four, five years ago he was losing like three matches a year.  I mean, it was ridiculous, you know, his record across all of the slams and on the regular tour.  I mean, you could count them on your hand how many matches he was losing during the year.

“I’d say the last couple years he’s lost a little bit more.  I think last year you could see at periods he was struggling with his back.  And if he’s fully fit, I’ve said all along, he’s always going to be there or thereabouts in the majors, and he’ll give himself opportunities to win more because he’s that good.”

For Murray, this is his first major tournament since back surgery in the Fall.

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Victoria Azarenka Moves Past Sloane Stephens into Australian Open Quarterfinals

Azarenka

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 20, 2014) MELBOURNE – Victoria Azarenka has raised her record in Melbourne to an 18-match win streak after disposing of Sloane Stephens in straight sets, 6-3 6-2 on Monday afternoon.

 

The all too familiar Australian Open match-up of Azarenka and Stephens may not have featured a controversial medical timeout this year, but it did not go without a couple of cringe worthy ‘pegs’.

 

Both ladies took to the stage in hot pink tennis gear. An aggressive Azarenka, who had no fear in going for the big shots, gifted herself the early break and, in turn, the psychological edge on young Stephens.

 

At 4-2 in the first set, Stephens propelled a body shot directly at her screeching opponent when, arguably, she had other options as to where she may have directed the ball.

 

No matter, the Belarusian maintained composure and served out the set, however not without receiving a time violation in between serves.

 

“I’m happy with the way I played. I think we were very competitive today,” Azarenka reflected.

 

“I know that Sloane is a great player, a very tough fighter. She was holding her serve really well. I felt like I had a few chances, but she managed to come back strong. So it was important just to stay in that zone and try to create another opportunity.”

 

The second set passed by more quickly than the first and as Azarenka rapidly gained momentum, dictating play, she kept the rally points to a minimum. All the while, Stephens’ unforced errors accumulated and a few poorly timed mishits contributed to the world No. 2 establishing a double break to clinch the match in straight.

 

“I just felt that I managed to pick it up on the important moments and really control the game. Even though sometimes I missed a few shots, I felt like I was doing the right thing. I just wanted to apply that and keep working on that.”

 

While the women’s draw has experienced major upsets over the last few days and the road ahead might appear as though to have opened up greater opportunities for the Belarusian world No. 2, since Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have been extinguished, Azarenka is not overly confident.

 

​”You have to stay alert. It doesn’t matter the level, that you’re No. 2 or whatever. Everybody has proven that anybody can beat anybody. The way I approach the matches, I have to be ready 100 per cent for every player.

 

​”It doesn’t matter. We still have high competition out there. The players who beat those players deserve all the credit because they’ve been better, so they are dangerous and they are competitive. For me it’s important to just keep focusing on my game and to play it one at a time. Quarterfinals of a Grand Slam are never easy, no matter who you play.”

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Maria Sharapova Loses to Dominika Cibulkova at Australian Open

Dominika Cibulkova

Dominika Cibulkova

(January 20, 2014) In another major upset at the Australian Open within the last 24 hours, No. 3 Maria Sharapova fell in the fourth round to No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 on Monday.  With the win Cibulkova has now made the quarterfinals or better at all four majors.

Sharapova made 45 unforced errors in her two hour and 12 minute match against Cibulkova. In addition to the errors and her serving woes, Sharapova took an off-court medical time-out in the third set due to a hip injury.

“I have a bit of a strain the trainer told me in the hip area,” Sharapova said.

“I mean, those aches and pains are expected when you spend a long time on the court.  Just have to play through it.

“I haven’t been playing the best tennis of this tournament, but I found ways to get through to the last two matches.

“Tried to do that again today, but she played extremely well.”

Cibulkova also knocked out Sharapova from the French Open five years ago.

Cibulkova broke Sharapova’s serve four straight times, beginning when the Russian was serving for the first set. Cibulkova jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set. Sharapova would win four straight games, but Cibulkova held her off to hold to finally close the set 6-4.

“It was really, really important game to stay in the match,’ said the world No. 20.  “It could be very different if it was 5‑All then set for me.

“So I think this game I was going for my shots, and I really played well.”

Sharapova was asked if this her second tournament coming back from a right shoulder injury which kept out for the last few months of the year, if she rates this as success.

“I think it’s a success in terms of that I’m back and that I’m healthy.  That’s quite important.  Otherwise I wouldn’t give myself a chance to play.

“So on that note, yeah, I have to look at the positives and see where I have come from in four or five months.  I haven’t played a lot of tennis in those six months.

“So I certainly would have loved to play a little bit more before playing a Grand Slam, but this is the chance that I was given.  I’m smart enough to be able to take it and acknowledge that I’m still pretty lucky to be in the draw and giving myself a chance to try to win it.”

With Serena Williams and Sharapova out, does the Slovakian think she has a chance at the title?

“I just ‑‑ I don’t want to think about it,” she said.  “I came here to play my best tennis.  The thing that changed maybe that I’m playing so well.  You know, I’m trying to also enjoy tennis.

“I love what I’m doing, and I don’t want to put too much pressure, because then it’s ‑‑ I don’t want to suffer on the court, you know.  I love the game and I love to play tennis.  I’m very good player, so I don’t want to have two opponents, the real one and me.

“I’m just trying to play against the opponent.”

“I was never doubting myself,” Cibulkova said on court after the match.

The 24-year-old Cibulkova will play Simona Halep in her first Australian Open quarterfinal.

No. 1 Serena Williams, 17-time major champion was knocked out in the fourth round on Sunday in a loss to Ana Ivanovic.

 

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Novak Djokovic Eases into Quarters of Australian Open

Djokovic wins 89

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 19, 2014) MELBOURNE – Novak Djokovic encountered little difficulty on his way to dismantling the funny Fabio Fognini on Sunday, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2, fighting off the urge to laugh at his childhood friend’s jokes to secure his nineteenth consecutive quarterfinal at a major.

It was reasonably smooth sailing for the world No. 2 as he grasped hold of an early break and held his service games all too comfortably to serve out the first set. Just 28 minutes later, Djokovic had already powered through a second set bagel much to the Italian’s disbelief.

 

“Mentally I was there. I was tough. I was focused. I feel great about myself in this moment,” Djokovic reflected after the match.

 

“There is this confidence that I carry on, obviously from the many wins that I had in the last two months of the 2013 season, and I started off this season in good style. I’m trying to keep it up.”

 

While Fognini’s unforced errors for the match more than doubled that of his Serbian opponent’s, it took some courage and will power to pick himself back up and return to court, even though seemingly for the slaughter. He got the crowd involved in his jokes and appealed to their tendency to support the underdog, refocusing to kick off the third set with a ‘love’ service game.

 

The Italian lost some focus as he allowed himself to be distracted by jokes with the crowd and an unflinching Djokovic on the other side of the net. He also grew particularly fussy about the balls he was to use; hitting, kicking and rolling those not quite up to his standard aside, perhaps desperate to make the most of loose superstitions since luck was not going his way. The Italian looked as though he was just about ready to throw down his racquet and give up altogether during many frustrating instances, especially when Djokovic launched especially elegant forehand winners which sent the crowd erupting in applause.

 

“When he had his moments during the match, and I’ve known him for long time, for me it’s funny but I tried not to laugh too much about it. I tried to direct my focus to my side of the court, what I needed to do and not pay attention to him – even though he was funny at times, I have to say,” the Serbian admitted.

 

“Being two sets up and making that break in the third, when then he started to, you know, have his five minutes of humorous actions on the court. It was funny, as I said, but you cannot get carried away too much. You can lose focus so easily on the court, really. Anything can distract you. Tennis is such a mental game at the end of the day. It’s very dynamic. Everything happens fast. In one or two points you can lose a break and the match can turn around. That’s why it’s important to really stay within yourself and focus on what you can do.”

 

It all became too much for the joking Italian to bear as he laughingly sent his racquet flying over the net in complete and utter despair when Djokovic broke him to lead 5-2 in the third. And fair enough considering the Serbian went on to serve out the match, acing his way to victory.

 

When the serious business was done and dusted upon winning the match, Djokovic also became in the mood for a good laugh and the three-time Australian Open champion graced the crowd with one of his famous impersonations – this time, of his new coach Boris Becker’s mannerisms while serving.

 

“​​I’m going to have to gain a few kilos and colour my hair in order to do the proper Becker imitation,” he joked.

 

The world No. 2 next faces Stanislas Wawrinka and must prepare for a potential rematch of last year’s five-set quarterfinal epic, acknowledging the fact that the match-up could very well give rise to yet another long night.

 

​”I have to be ready to play another 12-10 in the fifth like last year. I know that he’s been playing the tennis of his life in last 15 months. He’s a top 10 player now. He’s established himself in the top level, he won against some of the top guys in the big tournaments and he is confident. You could feel that mentally when he comes to the court, he believes in himself more. He can win against the top guys in the later stages of events.”

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Ana Ivanovic Upsets Serena Williams at Australian Open

Ana Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic

(January 19, 2014) For the first time in her career Ana Ivanovic has beaten Serena Williams. The Serb stunned the world No. 1 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to move into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Sunday.

The victory ended Williams’ 25-match win streak. The last time the American lost was back in August to Victoria Azarenka in the final on the Cincinnati tennis event.

Coming into the match, Williams was a perfect 4-0 against the Serb and failed to yield a set in those wins. Williams also came into the match only losing one match out of 52 after winning the first set.

Ivanovic said that the difference between playing Williams this time and the other four times was her belief:

“I had some confidence coming into today’s match.  I really did certain things extremely well, you know, and I kept her under pressure I felt throughout the whole match.

“I just, I think, you know, I just stayed in the moment physically.  I didn’t think much about the occasion and who I was playing, because it can get overwhelming.

“You know, I just stick with my things and it paid off.”

Williams visibly seemed hampered in her movement. There had been some media speculation that she had injured her back in practice between her second and third round matches. In her news conference, Williams confirmed that she was injured and said that she almost pulled out of the tournament in the second round but did not.

USA Today reporter Doug Robson tweeted after the match that Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou told him that his charge had been injured her back in practice between her second and third round.

Williams commented:”So he’s the one that’s snitching?”

The American’s lack of footwork showed up in her error count – 31 unforced errors and 9 double faults while Ivanovic cracked 33 winners, with 20 on her forehand side.

“I made a tremendous amount of errors, shots I missed I normally don’t miss,” Williams said.  I haven’t missed since the ’80s.  I’m just not used to missing those shots.

“She made some good shots, and I just made way, way, a lot of unforced errors.

“I keep stressing that Ana played really well,” Williams said. “I don’t want to make an excuse because she played such a great match.”

“I was just trying to do the best I could today.  Maybe I wasn’t the best physically, but that had nothing to do with it.

“I think Ana just played a really good match.  She did what it takes to win.”

Ivanovic was not aware of William’s back injury.

“I didn’t hear about it,” she said.  “I mean, I think she didn’t serve as fast as in her previous matches, but, you know, I really hope she can recover fast.”

She’s such a great player,” said the world No. 14. “Going on to the court today, I really just tried to give my best.  I tried to make it a good match.  I was very competitive till the last moment, and I’m just very thrilled, obviously.”

 

Williams discussed how she felt out on the court playing with her injury: “I obviously wasn’t hitting the way I normally would hit and wasn’t moving the way I normally would move and making a lot of errors that I normally would not make and I haven’t made in a couple of years.

“But it’s okay.  You know, I feel like I know for a fact I can play so much better than what I did today, so with that, knowing that, I’m not disappointed or anything.  I just know that I can play ten times better than what I did today.”

Williams took the first set breaking Ivanovic for a second time in the 10th game after the women exchanged breaks in the 5 and sixth games.

In the second set, Ivanovic again broke Williams in the fifth game and again in the ninth game for 6-3.

Ivanovic zoomed out to a 3-0 lead winning 8 out of the previous 9 games. She held the rest of the way to win the match.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

“At the end of the day it’s not the end of the world, and I keep stressing that I feel like Ana played really well,” the American said of her shocking loss.  “I think she played a really good match.

 

“You know, I don’t want to sit here and make an excuse when she played such a great match.

 

“I always feel like I can do better and how I can improve.  You know, as I fell at Wimbledon, I was able to get myself back up.  Like I said, sometimes it’s good when I lose because it takes my head out of the clouds.  Not that they are ever there, so to speak.  I just work as if I’m ranked 1000 in the world.”

Asked if Ivanovic can win the tournament, Williams said; “I think if she played like she did today she’ll have a good chance to do well.  You never know.  People are playing really tough.  Everyone in this competition is really hard and everyone is playing really tough, namely against me.

“So, you know, you have to be able to be ready to play every match.  I think she can do extremely well, and I hope she does well.

“Li Na/Pennetta?  I think Li Na is always a favorite, but I don’t think anyone, as we can see, can underestimate Pennetta, because she was in the semifinals of US Open just recently and she’s obviously backed that up with the minimum of a quarterfinal here.”

Since last year’s Australian Open, Williams is now 77-4.

Since winning the 2008 French Open, Ivanovic had reached the quarterfinals of a major only once – the 2012 US Open.

“It’s amazing,” Ivanovic said.  I mean, this victory means so much to me.  And, you know, I worked so hard and all the hard work, you know, it’s paying off.

“Like I said, you know, I had very tough fourth round matches in a Grand Slam, and this was probably the tough of toughest.  I just went out there to play.  I had nothing to lose, as well.

“I just kept swinging.  Even when I made errors I really, you know, believed in it.  So to have that victory, you know, it’s amazing.  We all know what kind of champion she is.  When we were starting the match and they were talking about all her Grand Slam titles, it was quite impressive.”

Asked if she’s ready to win the Australian Open after so many up and down years, the Serb said:

“I think all the struggles were just for moments like this.  You work hard and you never know what’s going to happen, you know.  I just really enjoy competing.

“Like I said, I’m not afraid going deep against these top players.  You know, I feel ready, and I want to challenge, you know, everyone out there.  I know there are going to be a lot of tough matches.

“It might not be quarterfinal; might be maybe second round, third round, but you always get tough matches.  I’m ready for the battle, and hopefully I can show this game all the way.”

Ivanovic will play win winner of the Eugenie Bouchard – Casey Dellacqua match in the quarterfinals.

 

 

More to follow…

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Flavia Pennetta Knocks Out Angelique Kerber in Melbourne

Pennetta

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 19, 2014) MELBOURNE – Flavia Pennetta upset Germany’s Angelique Kerber in three sets on Sunday morning, 6-1 4-6 7-5, projecting a well-earned boost in her ranking to return to the top 20 come the end of the tournament for the first time since 2011.

 

“​I would like to be back in the top 20,” Pennetti voiced.

 

“Of course, my dream is to be back in the top 10 but it is going be tough. The season is so long and it’s just started. For the moment, it’s so good so I hope to just keep going.”

 

The match began with a long rally, where neither player went for the winner but merely kept the ball in play to force the error. Kerber was the first to crumble in the face of pressure, making a forehand error, and this was a sign of what was to come from the German for the remainder of that set which allowed Pennetti to surge ahead to a double break lead.

 

“​I think the first set was perfect. I was really aggressive. Everything was working pretty good. My serve, my return, everything was perfect. In the second set, I was just starting to wait a little bit more. She started to play much better… but in the third it was a little bit up and down for both of us.

 

Kerber lifted her aggression to make a comeback in the second set, giving herself time to find her range in rallies to launch her best forehand winner. Both performed unusually well upon return rather than on serve throughout, but Kerber picked her moment to set up three break point opportunities. She rose to the occasion, establishing a break and backed it up by serving out the set.

 

Kerber brought some of her best tennis to the court towards the end of the decider, generating some fantastic angles on the ball, but by that stage it was too late. The Italian had already broken ahead, gaining some well-timed momentum and was much more controlled in her movements.

 

​”I think the only way to win today was to be aggressive and try to go for a winner, for a good shot. But also, not to rush too much. Every point was really long and I was trying to be near the baseline… it was the only way to win today.”

 

A place in the Australian Open 2014 quarterfinals might have been a nice belated birthday gift for Kerber, who had celebrated her 26th birthday the day before, but the Italian worked to force the errors off her more highly ranked opponent during the long rallies and broke ahead at the very end to ultimately triumph.

 

This win secured Pennetta her first ever quarterfinal in Melbourne and she has a promising track record against Li Na, who she is set to face during the week. But, in saying that, the two women have not come head to head in a tournament since 2010, so Pennetta is expecting a completely different match.

 

“​She is so good. She’s one of the best players. Backhand, unbelievable. Forehand, really good. Physically, she’s strong. So it’s going to be a really good fight on the court.”

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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