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Ana scored arguably the greatest win of her career on Sunday as she sensationally removed world No.1 and five-time champion Serena Williams in the fourth round of the Australian Open in Melbourne. The 14th seed played astonishingly well throughout the match and, despite losing a first se in which she dominated, she completed a stunning upset in one hour and 56 minutes.
“I had some confidence coming into today’s match,” revealed Ana. “I really did certain things extremely well, and I kept her under pressure, I felt, throughout the whole match.
“I think I just stayed in the moment physically. I didn't think much about the occasion and who I was playing, because it can get overwhelming. I just stuck with my things and it paid off.”
The world No.1 entered the match leading the women’s list of most aces hit during the tournament and she immediately lived up to her hard-hitting reputation. She opened the contest with an ace – and would eventually hit 13 in the match – but quickly surrendered dominance to Ana, who returned the Williams serve aggressively from the very beginning. The 26-year-old earned three break points in the opening game, but was unable to convert.
It proved to be just a reprieve for Williams, who appeared flat and heedless during the rallies, which Ana dominated. Ana would go on to break her opponent in game five with a forehand return winner, precisely painted in the corner of the court. However, a wounded animal is a dangerous animal, and Williams immediately set things right, breaking Ana to love in the following game to level at 3-3.
No more break points were allowed until game ten, when three unforced errors crept into Ana’s game at the worst possible moment. The 26-year-old saved a first set point, but she netted a backhand during the following rally to drop the game and the set.
Ana had never before won more than five games in a set against the younger Williams’ sister, and the 17-time Grand Slam champion had only ever lost six Grand Slam matches out of 285 after winning the opening set. But the 26-year-old drew confidence from her solid performance in the opening set. She moved towards the net in the first game of the second act and scored two classy points by displaying her volleying skills. A break point was to follow but, again, Ana wasn’t able to capitalize, missing her return on a second delivery from Williams.
Nevertheless, it looked like there was just no stopping Ana. She hit 33 winners and was outstanding on serve from the second act on, not facing a single break point after dropping the opening set. “I felt I was serving pretty well throughout the whole match,” said Ana.
“That also kept her a little bit under pressure. Just in the last service game I just tried to do the same things I had been doing throughout the whole match.”
She succeeded in making a massive breakthrough in the fifth game and this time she brilliantly consolidated her advantage, clinching the set with a forehand winner.
By now, it was clear that Ana could have a meeting with destiny as she continued her fine form throughout the match. She held to 15 in the first game of the decider and straightaway broke Williams to love.
After Ana had surged into a 3-0 lead, Williams showed her urge to survive and turn the tides, holding serve to love in her two following delivery games. But so did Ana and she was within reach of what was almost unthinkable before the match.
At 5-2, a first match point on the Williams serve was lost but as Ana took a 40-0 advantage in the next game, the outcome was almost inevitable. The American was unable to return Ana’s serve and the 26-year-old raised her hands in disbelief, beating Williams on the biggest stage possible.
"It's amazing,” said Ana. “I mean, this victory means so much to me. I worked so hard and all the hard work, it's paying off.”
Williams conceded afterwards: "I feel like Ana played really well. I think she played a really good match. It was all Ana today. I thought she played really well."
By Joeri Moerman
Click here to watch Ana's interview in the ESPN studio after the match. The interview also features highlights of the match.