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6-2, 7-5 win over No.14 seed Nadia Petrova makes it four wins in a row for first time since Indian Wells 2009
When she lost to Agnieszka Radwanska (admittedly a nemesis of hers) at Stuttgart last week, no-one would have bet a cent of a euro or even an old Italian lira on Ana Ivanovic making a run here in Rome this week. And yet here she is, a mere 12 games away from her first final appearance since she lost to Vera Zvonareva at Indian Wells… in 2009.
Since coming to Rome and announcing very maturely in a pre-tournament conference that the past was the past, she was concentrating on the present and hopefully of improvement whilst remaining resolutely realistic, she has been on an absolute tear. Elena Vesnina, No.9 seed Victoria Azarenka, No.6 seed Elena Dementieva and on Thursday No.14 Nadia Petrova tried, and failed, to halt the Ivanovic bandwagon which has rolled its way through the best of what Russian (and Belarusian) tennis has to offer. Heck, she has not even dropped a set thus far.
“Honestly, I’ve been feeling really good on court for a couple of weeks now and I really felt it could happen any week,” she smiled after the match. “I just needed to get some more momentum and start playing matches because that is what I’ve been lacking for so long. To have these wins here means a lot.”
One of the striking things about this four-match winning streak has been Ivanovic’s confidence on service. Against Petrova, particularly in the first set, she was untouchable, winning 13 of 14 points on her first service. Then, when the going got a little tougher in the second, she had the skill – and the guts – to send down a sliced ace into the corner on second serve.
“(Coach Heinz Gunthardt and I) have been working a lot on my serve and honestly, it needed a lot of improving and it is still work in progress. I still think I can serve a lot better and I am getting to a point where it is great to get some free points and it gives me a lot of confidence. Today, at a certain moment I served really well and also last night, and so it is good to get good feedback from all of the work that I put in. It is an important part of the game and today, you know Nadia was serving really, really well and it was great for me to be able to hold my serve because it was very difficult for me to return hers. My serve has been a big issue for me for over the past year-and-a-half, two years and now obviously it helps me in my game and puts less stress on other parts of my game because I feel more confident than I can hold my serves.”
The service is a critical part of any tennis player’s game, but if she can keep firing the ball down the way she has been this week, then a climb back up the rankings every bit as dramatic as the fall she experienced must surely be on the cards for the 2008 Roland Garros champion.