x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Ivanovic determined to end Williams duopoly

The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, once again look like the dominant forces on the grasscourts of Wimbledon.

There is a growing feeling of inevitability going into the second week of the Championships that the Williams sisters, who between them have lifted the women's singles trophy in seven of the last nine years, are on collision course for a fourth final on the lawns of the All England Club. It is regularly chronicled that Maria Sharapova was the first to interrupt the dominant decade of the Californian siblings because the statuesque Russian, a disappointingly early loser this year, pulled off a stunning victory over holder Serena in the 2004 final. The other break in the sequence came when both sisters failed to appear in 2006, France's Amelie Mauresmo completing a grand slam double to follow her Australian Open triumph earlier that year. That was when the engaging Maursemo was at the peak of her powers. In the last three years she has not been past the fourth round of a grand slam and looked to have hit rock bottom a month ago when suffering the most ignominious of first round exits on her home clay of Roland Garros. Mauresmo, who will turn 30 the day after the final, is starting to believe in herself again and confessed to being excited about what she might achieve, beginning with today's Centre Court attraction when she takes on the top-seeded but vulnerable Russian Dinara Safina. If Safina, who is still pulling herself back into shape after an appalling performance in the French Open final three weeks ago, has any remaining misgivings about her state of mind, the experienced Mauresmo is ready to take advantage. "I know it's going to be a tough match but hopefully it will go my way - we'll see," she said. "But the main thing is that I'm enjoying myself a lot more than I had been in the last couple of years and that was my goal. "Playing in a more relaxed way will perhaps enable me to have some more emotional moments on the court. I hope so." Safina, whose desperation to supplement her world No 1 ranking with a first grand slam title, has contributed to her suffering stage fright in three major finals, is expecting a tougher match today than the previous three which she won in straight sets. "She [Mauresmo] is playing very well at the moment," said Safina. "I think she's back in her best shape. She likes playing on grass. I mean, she won Wimbledon." The other show court women's offering today sees the re-emerging Ana Ivanovic seek to topple defending champion Venus. Ivanovic, who was in Safina's position on top of the world a year ago, can afford to take a carefree attitude on to Court One, having justified her 13th seeding with an impressive conquest of Australia's Samantha Stosur. Ivanovic, who saved a match point in her opening round victory, is regarding everything as a bonus from now on and if she hits her once-renowned forehand as freely against the third-seeded Venus as she did against French Open semi-finalist Stosur she could pose problems for the five-time winner. wjohnson@thenational.ae