Ana begins season with win

Ana begins season with win

Ana successfully negotiated the first hurdle of her 2014 season as she beat world No.57 Alison Riske from the United States in the opening round of the ASB Classic in Auckland. It was a hard-fought but well-deserved 7-5, 7-6(7-2) victory for the second seed in just under two hours, although she narrowly escaped a decider after facing five set points in the second set.

Ana appeared in resh and fine form during the early exchanges of the match as she took control over the majority of the rallies and put pressure on her opponent’s serve. However, with the 26-year-old unsuccessful on all three of her break opportunities in the early stages, all of the opening six games went with the server.

Regrettably, Ana netted what seemed a simple put-away forehand drive volley while facing a first break point herself in the seventh game. She consequently surrendered her service game and was clearly frustrated during the changeover for not taking advantage of her earlier opportunities.

Once back on-court, Ana converted those thoughts into a positive attitude and she showed greater aggression in the next game. She turned up with some flashy returns and immediately forced the vital re-break to love.

In the 12th game and while holding a 6-5 lead, the 26-year-old got into a 0-40 advantage, but was taken back to deuce in the before ultimately claiming the set on a fourth occasion as Riske netted a volley.

Ana opened the second act with a classy backhand winner, but again she was unable to build a meaningful lead. Moreover, three consecutive breaks of serve later on – and with Ana being broken twice – it was Riske who took a 4-2 advantage. Ana, slightly hindered by some right shoulder issues, asked for a short treatment in the meanwhile.

The 26-year-old’s facial expression looked rather concerned, especially when the American surged into a 5-3, 0-40 lead and earned three set points on Ana’s serve. Nevertheless, the former world No.1 empathically served herself out of trouble, also hammering away a fourth set point in this pivotal ninth game.

However, Riske was still up a break and had the set on her racket at 5-4. She enforced a fifth set point at 40-30, but saw it ruthlessly wiped out by Anam who stepped into the court and hammered a forehand return winner. The 26-year-old broke with her back against the wall and took the second set to a tiebreak.

Ana held the psychological upper hand and started strongly in the tiebreak, in spite of serving a double fault on the first point. The second seed held a comfortable 4-2 lead at the change of ends and she quickly added the three remaining points to wrap up her year’s first win.

Ana will face Johanna Larsson from Sweden in round two. The world No.84 moved past Spanish Lourdes Dominguez Lino 7-5, 6-0.

In doubles action, Ana reached the second round alongside Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens as they beat the American-Czech alliance of Irina Falconi and Eva Hrdinova 4-6, 6-3, 11-9 on Monday. The pair faced three match points, trailing 9-6 in the deciding match tiebreak, but reeled off five points to seal victory.

Ana's match with Larsson is scheduled to take place on New Year's Day (Wednesday) at 6.30pm local time (6.30am Central European Time; 12.30am Eastern Time).

By Joeri Moerman

Photo: Manuela Davies / doubleXposure.com