Ivanovic Wins Indian Wells
Published March 23, 2008 12:00
INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Ana Ivanovic played as the top seed at a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event for the first time a few weeks ago in Doha, but it was anything but a perfect ending; at Indian Wells it was all that and more, as the in-form Serbian powered through the draw and all the way to the title, stopping No.2 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets in the final Sunday afternoon.
Ivanovic, ranked No.2 but seeded No.1 in Justine Henin's absence, had a couple of tight matches early on in the fortnight, needing three sets to get by Ioana Raluca Olaru in her opener and Francesca Schiavone in the round of 16. But the 20-year-old came into her own in the crunch, beating No.12 seed Vera Zvonareva, No.3 seed Jelena Jankovic and No.2 seed Kuznetsova back-to-back-to-back in the quarters, semis and final for her first title of the year.
"It was such a strong field and I was still the No.1 seed; obviously more pressure comes into play," said Ivanovic, who withdrew prior to her second match with an ankle injury as the top seed in Doha. "The first few matches I was more nervous but then I just started to focus on each match and not even think about who I was playing against. I've been practicing really well and working so hard on my fitness, and that's something I tried to focus on when I was on the court."
The title bout between Ivanovic and Kuznetsova was closely-fought for the most part - with the exception of trading breaks once early on in the second set, they would both hold strongly to their service games for most of each set - but the tail end of each set belonged to Ivanovic, who won 11 of the last 12 points of the first and 12 of the last 14 points of the second. Her poise under pressure, as well as her 30-19 winners-to-errors ratio, were key contributors to the win.
"It's a great victory for me," Ivanovic said. "We always have tough matches. I think we both played good tennis from first point on, and I was really happy with that. We both kept level for most of the match. When I managed to break her at 4-all in the first set it gave me confidence, and I went strong from that point on. I realized that's what I had to do. I'm happy I managed to do that again later on."
"She played incredibly well in the first set. On every important ball, she just hit winners on the line," Kuznetsova said. "In the second set, I felt more pressure because I had to go for more and she broke me twice. For her, it was easier to win games on her serve than it was for me on my serve. But I could have played better against her. I played a little bit too much to her forehand."
Ivanovic is now 5-1 lifetime against Kuznetsova, though this is the first time she has overcome the Russian in straight sets. All four of her prior wins came in three sets, including in the only other final the two ever played, where an unbreakable Ivanovic rallied from 5-3 down in the third to win at Berlin last May, 36 64 76(4), a win that propelled her into the Top 10 for the first time.
"I want to enjoy this victory and have a couple days of relaxing and maybe light practice. The good thing is I have almost a week to recover for the next event. My goal is to continue strong next week in Miami. There are tough opponents even in the first few rounds and the nerves are a little bit more involved in the first few rounds. But coming from this tournament I have confidence."
Kuznetsova's curse in finals continues; the Russian has lost eight of her last nine Tour singles finals. Her lone title in that stretch came due to an injury retirement win at New Haven last August (Agnes Szavay won the first set then retired with a back injury after losing the first three games of the second, handing Kuznetsova the title). Aside from that, Kuznetsova has been the runner-up in every final she has played since winning Beijing in September 2006.
"In every final, there's also another player who plays; I have had different and better chances," said Kuznetsova, who has also lost finals this season at Sydney and Dubai against Henin and Elena Dementieva. "Justine and I played an amazing final and I had chances against Elena too. Today I didn't have that many chances.
"It's always painful to lose, but I prefer losing in the final to losing in the second round. I still played a pretty good tournament."
Despite Sunday's loss, Kuznetsova also had a phenomenal fortnight, highlighted by a three set semifinal victory over Maria Sharapova, ending her compatriot's perfect season. This is the third time Kuznetsova has ended a recently-crowned Australian Open champion's double digit win streak: in 2004, she ended Henin's 16-0 start to the season in the Doha semifinals; in 2006, she ended Mauresmo's 16-match run in the Dubai quarterfinals; and here she snapped Sharapova's 18-0 start to the season with a 63 57 62 win at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Other notable results from the desert included Lindsay Davenport's comeback to what she has said is one of her favorite events, reaching the quarterfinals as the No.24 seed before succumbing to a back injury and Jankovic; early exits of Top 8 seeds Nicole Vaidisova and Dinara Safina, at the hands of Casey Dellacqua and Ashley Harkleroad, respectively; and last but certainly not least Safina's rebound as she and fellow Russian Elena Vesnina would eventually take home the doubles title, beating Chinese duo Yan Zi and Zheng Jie in a riveting final.