Ana battles into round four

Ana battles into round four

Ana secured a place in the fourth round of the US Open after beating the USA’s Sloane Stephens 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 on Arthur Ashe Stadium. The 24-year-old had to dig deep to come back from a set down to triumph in two hours and 21 minutes.

Although Ana triumphed convincingly in their only previous meeting at the exact same stage of the US Open last year, Stephens represented a stern test. She has improved 62 world ranking places since that contest 12 months ago and impressively beat Francesca Schiavone in round one. She also had the advantage of home support.

The opening exchanges were extremely tight with both players looking to take control. No rhythm or flow existed in the match as both attempted to continually play big shots, resulting in a high number of winners and unforced errors on both sides of the net.

Although it was the American who made the first breakthrough by breaking Ana’s second service game, the former world No.1 showed determination to hold her serve and apply pressure on the world No.44. She managed to break back to make it 4-4, by taking the ball on early to try to nullify the American's speed and coming to the net to shorten points.

After a hold and break each it was time for a tie-break. Ana continued to try to dictate play and play aggressively, but a couple of loose forehands meant Stephens won it 7-4 to take the first set.

The start of the second set followed the pattern of the first. Moments of brilliance were followed by moments to forget for both players. However, it was clear that Stephens was beginning to find the flat trajectory and depth of Ana’s shots difficult to deal with. Despite being unable to consolidate an early break, Ana broke once again to make it 5-4, before wrapping up the second set on serve.

With the confidence gained from the second set, Ana raised her level again to break Stephens in her second service game of the deciding set. Stephens reacted immediately by breaking back, but succumbed to two further breaks of serve as Ana sealed the set and the match. The 12th seed’s power and spin on the forehand proved too much for the American.

"I expected a very tough match this time around," said Ana. "She's a great player. She's improved a lot since last year, as I remembered. Her serve is a lot faster and her forehand, as well.

"I felt there were a lot of moments where I actually built the point nicely, then I missed on sort of finishing shots. Still, I tried to be aggressive and put a lot of pressure on her. I tried to kind of open up the court a little bit, but she was very solid off both sides."

Ana will now play Tsvetana Pironkova in the round of 16 on Monday, with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.

By Jonathan Campkin

Photo: Manuela Davies / doubleXposure.com