Ana loses to Serena in three

Ana loses to Serena in three

Ana pushed world No.1 Serena Williams to three sets but was unable to avert a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 defeat in the semi-finals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. The 26-year-old often showed flashes of her fine form but eventually fell short to the majestical American in one hour and 36 minutes.
 
Ana clearly entered the match with confidence following her recent performances and she rifled a forehand return winner on the opening point to set the tone for a high quality contest. Despite two aces from Williams’ racket in that first game of the match, Ana wangled a break point, but she could not take advantage of it. After a hard-fought seven-minute game in which the pair went to deuce four times, the world No.1 was the first to get her name on the scoreboard.
 
Ana held serve in the second game but her first delivery was not yet clicking into place. It would prove fatal later in the set, as she brought only 39 per cent of them in court, and was mercilessly punished by the American who ripped every weaker ball. In no time, Williams reeled off five games to wrap up set one in overbearing style.
 
The difference a decent first serve percentage can make became clear in the second set. Ana, loudly encouraged by the Roman audience, upped her service stats to 77% and forced Williams into defence. The 26-year-old backed up her fine serving with some sweet forehand winners and completely took command of the set.
 
Moreover, Ana exploited every opportunity to visit the net and put pressure on the extremely powerful groundstrokes from the American. It paid off fabulously well, as the 11th seed soared into a 4-0 lead with aggressive and flawless play to which the world No.1 had no response. The 26-year-old was on top through the entire set and although Williams snatched back one break of serve, Ana sealed the second set with an ace to force the contest into a decider.
 
Despite her fine display in set two, Ana was quickly overtaken by events in the third. She was just a little bit more tentative and, as some unforced errors crept in, she trailed by two breaks of serve in less than 15 minutes. The world No.13 kept her morale high and unleashed some more flashy winners that enabled her to win a game, but Williams ultimately didn’t tolerate any further resistance and she advanced to her second straight final in Rome.

"She played really well in the second set and at the same time my first serve percentage dropped. She's a great returner, so she put me under a lot of pressure because of that," Williams said. "I lost my concentration a little bit, so at the start of the third set I just tried to get really pumped, keep myself focused and pretty much do everything to play my best tennis."

Ana will now head to Paris for Roland Garros, the year’s second Grand Slam event. As a result of her good displays over the past weeks, she will be seeded at least 12th during the fortnight.

By Joeri Moerman