Ivanovic Returns to Bank of the West with Convincing Win
This 23 year old tour veteran from Serbia (yes one can be a veteran at 23 when you turn pro in 2003 at the tender age of 16) has been ranked number 1 in the world in June of 2008. In 2008 she won Roland Garros, lost to Sharapova in the finals of the Australian Open, and this followed impressive results in 2007 that included losing in the Wimbledon Semifinals to Venus and to Henin at Roland Garros in the finals. She holds 8 tour titles, but hasn’t won another since 2008.
Click photo Ana was forced to catch the occasional wayward toss but overall her serve held up.
Presently coached by Heinz Gunthardt, she is working to regain her form. She received a wild card to the WTA Bank of the West Championships at Stanford as she is presently ranked 63rd, and in 51st place in the WTA race. This year her record is 11 wins against 12 losses, and with more than $7 million dollars of prize money under her belt, I truly admire her guts to stay at it to attempt yet another chance at the brass ring.
In the first round on Monday night she played Alisa Kleybanova. And Kleybanova has had Anna’s number, beating her at the 2009 Australian Open 7-5, 6-7, 6-2, the 2010 Fed Cup 6-2, 6-3 and recently at the French Open 6-3, 6-0. Anna beat Alisa just once in Dubai in 2009 7-5, 6-4.
But last night was entirely another matter as Ana breezed to a 6-3, 6-2 victory. And in doing so, she appears to be approaching her previous free swinging fluid form. Anna said, "I'm really happy to see the things I've been working on in the past month show on the court. I was getting to every ball and managed to keep the rallies going so I didn't have to pull the trigger too early. Alisa is a tough opponent and this is probably her best surface, so I'm very happy to win."
The stats tell the story, where truly Anna was never really pressed. She was broken only once, whereas Alisa faced 13 break points (this is really way too many) and fought off just 9 of them.
Click photo: Note how effortful Safina or Sharapova appear, and the tell is their unusually high back leg counterbalancing kick.
1st serve percent
1st serve points won
2nd serve points won
Break points saved
When looking at the stats note the huge disparity in points won on the first serve.
Many of the girls on the tour struggle with their serves. Ivanovic is no exception, though last night I thought her delivery was pretty darn good. She caught the occasional wayward toss, but overall, if her serve holds to form her fame will follow.
Takeaways for your own game – the women hit the ball hard and fairly flat. And their game is played at the tempo of ping pong – very fast back and forth. And somehow, because all the women play this way, the competitive field is quite level. They are always playing others that play the same. Pace feeds on pace, and tempo on tempo, and it has been a long time since a Martina Hingis could destroy these players rhythm and confidence with her unusual mixture of spin and placement.
Click photo: Ana's serve seemed well balanced and effortless. She consistently brought it around 110 mph.
But, and this is a big but, many of the girls can or could learn to serve better.
This was clearly show in the second evening match where Kimiko Date overcame Dinara Safina – and their contrasting serve styles gives you something to work on next time on court.
The keys are simply rhythm and effort. Contrast the overly high toss of Sharapova or Safina (and this high toss challenges one’s rhythm), with the lower toss of Date, or the improved and lower toss of Ivanovic. In fact, last night Ana was careful to catch nearly all her wayward tosses. When it comes to effort, note how effortful Safina or Sharapova appear, and the tell is their unusually high back leg counterbalancing kick with the simpler finish of Date or Ivanovic.
Serving is about rhythm and effortlessness – and if this is your main prompt when serving, and how you approach your on court practice – you will find more zip, from less effort, and at the end of the day your confidence will grow.
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