There was drama on the scoreboard and eventually between the combatants during the second women’s semifinal at the 2014 Western & Southern Open. Ana Ivanovic came into Cincinnati having her best season since 2008 (yet she still switched coaches recently, despite her success). She’s won 3 tournaments, finished runner-up in another and leads the tour in match wins. She sure looked great starting the semifinal, jumping all over career Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova, 6-2 4-0. It looked like Ana would make a big statement in easily dispatching a player as great as Masha. But Sharapova didn’t become an all-time great by wilting under pressure. The Russian superstar stormed back against an Ana Ivanovic who has had a reputation in the past for letting victories slipped through her fingers, not dealing with the weight of the moment. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Masha grabbed 7 of the last 8 games of the set to even matters 6-2 5-7. The match looked like another classic Sharapova 3-set comeback and Ivanovic implosion. There could scarcely be any more drama in the match. Until the second game of the third set.
After winning her opening service game for a 1-0 lead, at 15-all on Masha’s serve, Ana seemed to be in distress. She was bending over and seemed to be struggling with her composure. Eventually, the chair umpire came on the court and Ana asked for the trainer. She didn’t seem to have an injury, at least they didn’t treat anything with massage, stretching or bandaging. However, they did give her a pill for sickness and check her blood pressure. It somewhat reminded me of Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open against Sloane Stephens when she seemed to have a panic attack under the stress. In both cases, the timeout came on their opponent’s serve. Generally, it is considered poor etiquette at best to take an injury time-out on your opponent’s serve unless it is a severe, immediate need. What’s more, sometimes players use the tactic of taking an injury time-out on an opponent’s serve as gamesmanship, especially to break the momentum of a player on a roll. Remember that Masha had won 7 of the last 8 games of the second set and the first game of the final set, so 8 of 9 overall. Now, nobody but Ana can truly say how much distress she was in. A spike in blood pressure can be dangerous. But the timing was…questionable.
Nevertheless, Masha started the final set well, going up 4-2. But Ana would raise the level of her play to even the set at 4-4. After Ana won the final point to even the set at 4-all, Masha looked to chair umpire, tapped her upper arm with her racquet and sarcastically said,”check her blood pressure.” Masha, normally known as a shrieker on court, was even louder when she was hitting. Again, I can’t read minds but it sure seemed Sharapova was trying to get under Ana’s skin. Masha broke again for 5-4 and served for the match. However, she herself was broken back. After Ana held serve for 6-5, they played the point of the match. After the spectacular shot from Ana, Masha once again looked over to the chair umpire, tapped her arm and mockingly suggested he check Ana’s blood pressure.
There was no need to check the rest of the way as Ana was able to earn a 6-2 5-7 7-5 win. The victory earned her a fourth meeting with Serena Williams this year. Ana pulled off an upset at the Australian Open, but has dropped two matches since. However, all three previous matches were competitive 3-setters. Hopefully, we’ll get another in the final.
ALL PICS CLICK TO ENLARGE
9 ANA IVANOVIC (won 6-2 5-7 7-5 vs 5 Maria Sharapova)