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Ana will be crowned the world’s No.1 for the first time in her career on Monday after beating third seed Jelena Jankovic in a fascinating French Open semi-final. With one of the most resilient performances of her young career she won 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to reach her third grand slam final in 12 months and her second consecutive Roland Garros final. Ana will become No.1 irrespective of the outcome of the final against Dinara Safina, of Russia, on Saturday.
The title was there for the taking by Jankovic, too, but in a match with more twists and turns than the Cresta Run it was Ana who emerged victorious, for the seventh time in eight meetings between the two.
Jankovic started as though she meant to claim that title, winning the opening three games as Ana was possibly guilty of forcing the pace a little too much.
After serving a double fault and holding serve Ana embarked on a scintillating run which saw her win seven of the next eight games as Jankovic’s game came apart at the seams. Jankovic briefly threatened to stifle Ana’s comeback when with some great defensive play she won a 28-shot rally to break Ana in the sixth game and regain the initiative, but Ana was not to be denied.
The games were littered with break points, most of them in Ana’s favour, and yet for all that the standard of play in the first set was often excellent – and it was never less than intriguing.
The second set was a complete reversal of the first. This time Ana started strongly, taking a 2-0 lead, but it was evident by the sixth game that Jankovic, after receiving some heat treatment to her right arm, was getting back into it. Despite some great “gets” the set slowly ebbed away from Ana.
The deciding set did not start well for her when she was immediately broken. But even though she had lost the rhythm and confidently channeled power of her earlier play, Ana, to her eternal credit, refused to yield and at 4-all the match began to turn in her favour again. It was Ana’s bravery on the big points that most will remember her for in this match.
“I think all the match was lots of ups and downs, lots of breaks,” said Ana modestly. “In the third set, I just had to put everything on the line being down 4-3 with the break. I had to go for my shots, because it was very long, the match, and a lot of long rallies. So I had the feeling that I had to step up a little bit more and take a risk. That last game was huge, and I stepped up and played some good tennis."
Ana was naturally thrilled with achieving her lifetime ambition of becoming No.1 in the world. "It's amazing," she said.
"I was really surprised when I heard that - a lady in the locker room told me after the match! I didn't know anything about that, because I haven't been thinking or even looking at rankings lately.
"I'm sure we will have a great celebration when it is official on Monday, but for now I just need to keep my focus on the tournament, because Saturday's match is going to be very tough."
Photo: Manuela Davies / doubleXposure.com