Where Do They Go From Here?

By Jane Voigt

January 19, 2013 -- There's a change in the air Down Under. Serena Williams is out.

Her loss to former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic was not expected. No one was expected to beat the 17-time Grand Slam winner. 

Victoria Azarenka was considered a contender from day one, as was Maria Sharapova and Li Na. They are still in the mix. But now Sloane Stephens, Simona Halep, and Eugenie Bouchard, the youngsters, could have planted a kernel of hope in their minds about going deep, or, even, should they mention it … winning the title.

Ana Ivanovic was a runner-up at Roland Garros in 2007, then won the title -- her only major -- the next year. She was 18 and number-one in the world. Talk about a fairytale story. Over the next four years she never progressed past the 4th round of a slam, until the quarterfinals of the 2012 U. S. Open where she lost to Serena Williams. 

There were other problems. Her serve went all quirky, and still can. The ball toss fluctuated, she double faulted. Since serving is one of the two most important shots in tennis, her confidence plummeted and her ground game vanished. She was injured frequently (hand, knee, hip), changed coaches, dumped boyfriends and welcomed new ones. She posed for fashion magazines, some less tasteful than a majority of tennis fans would have liked to have seen.

Ivanovic Waves smiles after victory over Jelena Jankovic, 2013 Australian Open.


Photo credit Gillian Elliott/tennisclix.com

Ana stopped smiling. She did not know her place in tennis. 

Ivanovic has not been back to the biggest stage of tennis, a final of a Grand Slam, in six years. She's not there yet, either. But her victory over Williams took her one step closer. 

Any of the younger women mentioned earlier -- Stephens, Halep, Bouchard, and even Garbine Muguruza -- has the chance break through. But as each round ticks off, the pressure mounts and handling pressure comes from experience. 

Since Williams' back was an issue today, Ana's victory could have an asterisk next to the score, 46 63 63*, meaning, Serena was injured and would have won had she not been injured. No. Ivanovic had accept that fact, then put it aside and concentrate on her plan. 

Serena agreed, "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."

For Ivanovic, the difference was belief.

"I actually believed," Ana told the press. "I had some confidence coming into today's match. I just stayed in the moment. I didn't think much about the occasion and who I was playing, because it can get over whelming."

Ivanovic served well. She won 78% of points on her first serve, and 60% on her second serve. These were both better than Williams': 68% and 41%. 

What Ivanovic did by beating Serena does not show up in stats, although they give a good indication. Ivanovic let go. Belief has to run free or it isn't belief. 

"I just kept swinging," Ana began. "Even when I made errors I really believed in it. I had to remind myself to just stay in the moment. I'm the kind of player that I like to control the points and I like to also be aggressive. I just have to believe in it."

Her push through to the quarterfinals in Melbourne breaks a 'spell,' as Ivanovic characterized it, of difficult and insurmountable fourth round matches. 

"I had to break a spell, fourth round," she said. "And what's the better place to do it than here against such a champion?

Next up for the Serbian … Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. Eighteen years old. First Australian Open main draw; she lost in the second round of qualifications in 2013. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013