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Ana Ivanovic described it as the highest-quality match she has played in the past year and it’s hard to disagree. The former world No. 1 fought back from a break down in the first set to oust defending champion and No. 1 seed Simona Halep 7-6 (2), 6-2.
It has been a seed massacre in Dubai in the first three days with the tournament’s eight top players now having crashed out without winning a single match.
The clash between Ivanovic and Halep was a one-hour 52-minute tug of war that started over an hour later than scheduled due to a thunderstorm that flooded centre court. The opening set was also interrupted for 17 minutes as a slew of people with towels and manual blow-dryers had to come out to dry the area around the ‘Dubai’ lettering on court which was still damp.
But none of the delays or interruptions stopped Ivanovic from digging deep to keep Halep at bay to get her first top-10 win of 2016 and reach her fourth quarter-final in Dubai.
“I was not expecting to get on court that early. It was 6:30, I was still in my hotel relaxing. Then I got the message: ‘Not Before 8:00’, I’m like ‘Oh, my God. Have I got to get ready? Have I got to get to the club?’,” said Ivanovic after the win.
“So it was a little bit hectic, but I was really happy to sort of believe in myself, trusting the work I have done in the previous days. Honestly at some point I was really impressed with my movement. So thank you, Howard (Green, her physio), for all the hard work we did in offseason. Obviously that paid off, especially against one of the best movers on tour.”
In a match fit to be the final of this tournament, both players pulled out all the stops as they attempted to outfox one another until the very end.
Ivanovic’s first two points indicated she was picking up where she left off the day before – when she crushed Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 6-0 – firing back-to-back winners and looking sharp. But Halep wore her down right away, getting a break point and the defending champion broke on an Ivanovic double fault.
Two games later, play was halted as the court needed to be dried and play resumed with the match clock at 25 minutes. Halep held for 3-1 upon resumption.
With Halep serving for the set at 5-4, after saving a set point, Ivanovic hit a perfect return followed by a big forehand to draw the error from the top seed and get a break point. And the Serb got the break back as Halep landed a forehand in the net. The set went to a tiebreak and Ivanovic got her hands on four set points with a service winner but she only needed one.
The second set started with three consecutive breaks before Ivanovic finally held for 3-1. Halep went down 0-40 in game seven and Ivanovic got the double-break on her second chance with a punishing return to lead 5-2.
The Serb got her first match point with a thumping forehand down the line and a service winner sealed the deal for her as she completed the upset.
“I think it was one of the highest quality matches I have had in maybe last year,” explained Ivanovic, who plays Barbora Strycova on Thursday for a place in the semis. “I knew I had it in me, so I really believed throughout.”
On her part, Halep looked disappointed but felt she played a good match.
“I think I was doing okay. I was aggressive. She played really well. She came back well,” said the world No. 3.
No. 2 seed Garbine Muguruza followed Halep out of the tournament as she fell 7-6 (3), 6-3 to Ukrainian world No. 21 Elina Svitolina in the second round on Wednesday night.
Muguruza admits she has been unable to find her game and is considering taking a break from tournaments because she is not competition-ready.
“I’m not really finding my game, so I think I have to rest a little bit and concentrate again and work hard and eventually come back to the tournaments to play again,” said the Spanish Wimbledon finalist. “I don’t know yet [If I will play Doha next week], but let’s see how I feel. If I’m not 100 per cent, I don’t think it’s necessary. So we’ll see these couple of days.”
Retired ex-world No1 Ana Ivanovic took the Sport360 Arabic Test and impressed us by totally acing it.
Now living in the United States with her husband, German football star, Bastian Schweinsteiger, who plays for Chicago Fire, Ivanovic has been truly missed on the tennis tour.
Don’t miss other players who took our Arabic test like Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Karolina Pliskova, Dominika Cibulkova, Angelique Kerber, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Roberta Vinci and Tomas Berdych.