'Up and down' Ana Ivanovic crashes out of Dubai event
DUBAI // Ana Ivanovic, as she confesses, always has a song playing in her mind during matches. Last night, she must have probably started with a sweet melody, but then switched to some gloomy strain as she lost in three sets to Patty Schnyder.
Ivanovic was up a set and leading 3-0 in the second, when the music changed for her. A plethora of unforced errors followed and she eventually bowed out of the Dubai Duty Free Women's Tennis Championship 6-4, 6-7, 2-6.
"I especially like the way I came back," Schnyder said after her win. "I stuck to my game plan. I could not execute it though in the first set and a half I guess.
"She is such a tough player. She puts a lot of pressure with her serve. It's like up and down, but when it's in, it's really a big weapon. So I just tried to play the rally the way I wanted."
Schnyder started the match with an ace, but lost her serve in the fifth game. The Swiss, 32, however, fought back to level at 3-3, but Ivanovic got the break she needed in the ninth game and then served out for the set.
In the second set, Ivanovic got a break in the third, but dropped her serve in the sixth as Schynder took 12 of the 15 points in winning three games in a row. The set eventually went into the tiebreaker, which the Swiss won 7-2.
At 5-2, Ivanovic challenged a line call, but the chair umpire ruled she was late. The Serb got into an argument over it and from then on never looked the same player.
"I didn't feel too comfortable because she saved those set points with great strokes," Schnyder said. "She finished the game really strong. So I said, 'phew'.
"I didn't know what to expect in the tie-break, but she gave me two points in the beginning and then she started to argue. She fell apart a bit.
"Of course, she knew she had the first set. So I guess she was still confident to come back, find her game and win that match."
That, however, never happened. Ivanovic had committed 24 unforced errors until then and her profligacy continued in the deciding third set as she dropped serve in the opening game. Two double faults from her in the seventh game sealed the fate of the match and Schnyder served out for a second-round clash with Jie Zheng.
The serve had been one of Ivanovic's biggest weapon when she was rose to the No 1 ranking in the world in 2008; it proved to be her worst enemy last night as she served 12 double faults.
"Her serve was always up and down," Schnyder said. "She gave me a lot of double faults as well in the first set. But my footwork was kind of slow and I couldn't play the rallies from the back the way I wanted.
"When her serve is in, she hits the lines and it's coming quickly. So it is just a risky serve, but you have to make the points when it is not good."
Ivanovic who won the French Open in 2008 and reached the pinnacle of the rankings, has been searching for her best form since those halcyon days. In 2008 she was the face of women's tennis, the darling of the fans, the world No 1 with a multitude of endorsements and a diary full of glamour shoots.
Since 2005, she has featured on 106 magazine covers around the world. Last year, when she slipped outside the world's top 60, the 23-year-old featured on 52 covers.
On the professional side, though, her tennis was on a slide. The wins dried up, draining her confidence and creating doubts. Pat Cash, the former grand slam-winning champion from Australia, once said: "Her basic problem is confusion and a subsequent lack of confidence.
"I heard an interesting thing said about Ana the other day and it fits perfectly. She picks at the scabs of defeat, trying to figure out how she can keep from being wounded again, and in the process may overlook the fact that all winners accumulate their share of scar tissue."
Ivanovic realises that now and her career-graph is already on the upward climb; she is currently the world No 19, but, as last night showed, she still has some way to go.
"I thought she had her game back at the end of the last year, but obviously the competition is tough on the women's side," Schnyder said. "She just cannot afford to let go 10 per cent of her game; then everyone is all over her. So it's very tough to get back for anyone."