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Ana safely passed a tricky opening round match at the Wimbledon Championships with a 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 victory over Italy’s Francesca Schiavone. The world No.76 provided a stern test for the 11th seed, who eventually prevailed in 96 minutes.
The Italian was ranked world No.4 just three years ago and although she has slipped down the rankings over, she showed that she is still a passionate competitor. Schiavone used her backhand slice to keep the ball low, get pace out of the rallies and prevent Ana from dictating the rallies with her beloved big striking.
It paid off effectively and Schiavone easily kept pace with the 26-year-old throughout the first set. After breaks were traded in the opening two games, the server remained in full control and the set progressed into a tiebreak.
In the tiebreak, Ana fell 4-1 behind, but thereafter won five out of the next six points to turn around the situation and go 6-5 up. She missed a half-court forehand shot on her first set point, but a classy first serve winner granted her a second opportunity, which she successfully exploited.
Darkness was already descending as the second set got underway but again, there was still very little to separate the pair. The first four games all went with serve until Ana carved a 3-2 lead onto the scoreboard, gifted on a platter by a double fault from Schiavone’s racket when facing a break point.
The 26-year-old consolidated her advantage and although the Italian didn’t crack and even earned a break-back point in the eighth game, Ana kept her cool and got the chance to serve out the match two games later.
Schiavone's exit was confirmed after another well-constructed point from Ana in that last game, as the 26-year-old’s superiority shone through. Indeed, the 11th seed held to 15 to seal her spot in round two.
"It was very tough today," said Ana, who made no attempt to hide her relief upon clinching victory.
"She played very well. It was intense, and a really difficult first match."
Ana will face Zheng Jie from China in the second round on Thursday, after the world No 66 beat 20-year-old German Annika Beck 6-1, 6-3.
By Joeri Moerman