Coming into the 2014 Aegon Classic, former world #1 Ana Ivanovic had never won a grass court title. Moreover, she had never even reached the final of a grass court tournament. Done and done. With possible challengers like #2 seed Samantha Stosur and #3 seed Sloane Stephens, not to mention Ana’s nemesis #5 seed Lucie Safarova, getting picked off in the draw, top seed Ivanovic did what she was supposed to do. She marched right through the lower ranked opponents in front of her en route to a championship run that saw her emerge without losing a set.
The final between Ana and Barbara Zahlavova Strycova started with both players showing agitation. The grass was soft and muddy, causing both players to spend changeovers picking sod off the bottom of their shoes. Ana dropped her serve in the first game but broke back immediately. Although she was up 2-1 to start, she called her coach out on the first changeover. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player call the coach that early, especially if they are on serve. Ivanovic, speaking in Serbian, was clearly in need of calm. Nonetheless, Ana built a 4-1 first set lead, prompting Barbara to call her coach. Zahlavova Strycova spent almost the entire changeover complaining about the soft conditions. Barbara’s game is built on speed and movement (not to mention a pretty decent first serve). If she can’t move, she can’t beat a player like Ivanovic. Dropping the first set 6-3 didn’t help.
In the third game of the second set, after a double fault and backhand slice error by Zahlavova Strycova set up a 15-40 break point, Ana capitalized with a screaming forehand winner down the line to put herself firmly in command. However, Ana almost gave it right back with a couple of loose overhead misses in her service game. But the former Roland Garros champion fought off a break point against her, turning around and breaking Barbara again the next game for a 4-1 lead. After Ana held her service game again, Zahlavova Strycova showed heart in fighting off two match points at 15-40 1-5 down against her serve. It would prove a short reprieve as Ivanovic held at love to win, 6-3 6-2. Ana nows has 3 titles in 2014, matching Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, and 14 titles overall. She also leads the tour in match victories this year. Ana admitted that when the top seeds started to fall at Roland Garros she started looking ahead in the draw too much, a bad move considering the trouble she’s had with Safarova. She promises not to do that at Wimbledon, no matter what happens to other players. With her big serve and forehand, she should get lots of easy points on the grass. She was even hitting kick serves at Aegon. Typically, kick serves on grass are not the best strategy. Adding more slice second serves tends to work better, keeping the ball low. But if anybody can get away with it, it’s Ana when she’s on (and Serena).
Congratulations also to the American doubles team of Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears. It’s Spears’ 13th doubles title and Kops-Jones’ 11th doubles title. It’s their 9th title together. I am openly rooting for this American duo, both in their 30s, to at least once reach a doubles final at a Major. Seeded 8th at the Australian Open, they had their best result at a Major reaching the semifinals and taking the 3rd seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina to 6-3 in the third. It was such a thrill to see American Vania King pair with Yaroslava Shvedova to win Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010. Vania was 21 when that happened. It would be even sweeter to see this 30-something American pair at least get to taste what it feels like to reach a Major final. And should they actually win. 🙂
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1 ANA IVANOVIC (won 6-3 6-2 vs Barbara Zahlavova Strycova)
3 RAQUEL KOPS-JONES & ABIGAIL SPEARS (won 7-6 (1) 6-1 vs 2 Ashleigh Barty & Casey Dellacqua)