Awesome Ana captures Auckland title

Awesome Ana captures Auckland title

Ana began the 2014 season in ideal fashion as she defeated seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to win the ASB Classic title in Auckland. 
 
The 26-year-old recovered from losing the second set after holding a match point at 5-3, keeping her cool admirably in the decider to score an extremely morale-boosting triumph Down Under. It was Ana's first tournament win in over two years.
 
The performance of the local war dance, the Haka, was not just a short artistic intermezzo before the match started. It was a true prelude of what would turn out to be a top-class, nail-biting contest in which two former world No.1 warriors pushed each other until the very end. Two hours and 19 minutes later, Ana was rewarded with the capture of her career’s 12th tournament win.
 
At the beginning of the match it was immediately visible that the elder Williams sister is on her way back after suffering several injuries that have kept her away from the tennis courts for the majority of the past four seasons. The American applied great pressure on Ana’s defence with her powerful groundstrokes, but she was sometimes a little too eager too impatient to pull the trigger.
 
Ana, on the other hand, built up the rallies and patiently waited for a short ball to finish the points. In the third game, the 26-year-old maximally exploited the many unforced errors coming from the other side of the net and she secured a first break to grab control of the match.
 
It was more of the same in the following games. After consolidating the break and moving 3-1 ahead, Ana turned around a 40-15 score in the fifth game to take a double break lead. She went on to wrap up the opening set in utterly convincing style.
 
In the second set, no breaks of serve were permitted until the fifth game. Williams reduced her unforced errors – she had hit 20 in only the opening set – while Ana remained acting extremely solidly.
 
At 30-all in that fifth game, the American threw in a double fault and followed it up with a wild forehand mistake. The 26-year-old broke the Williams serve for a third time in the match.
 
The title gradually moved to within Ana’s reach and a confident hold of serve in the eighth game appeared to be crucial. The second seed released a loud ‘idemo’ scream - "come on" in Serbian - as she was just one more game away from a first tournament win since the Tournament of Champions in Bali in November, 2011.
 
The 26-year-old enforced a first match point in the following turn but unfortunately for Ana, it was at this moment that the class of the seven-time Grand Slam champion manifested itself. Williams powered away the match point with a huge serve and she still something up her sleeve. While Williams’ all-or-nothing game didn’t pay off in the early stages of the match, it did now, and emphatically.
 
After she vitally had held her serve, the 33-year-old came up with an array of flashy return winners in the next game and broke Ana to level the set at 5-all. Moreover, with the American also enjoying some fortune with a couple of net cord, the momentum of the match completely shifted. Williams claimed four successive games and took the contest into a deciding set.
 
However, as the third set got underway, Williams’ impeccable manner of playing from the previous 15 minutes collapsed entirely. The American opened the set with a double fault and added three unforced errors to instantly surrender her serve. Suddenly, Ana again held all the aces.
 
In game eight of the deciding set, Ana produced one of the most impressive games of the match, including a winning serve, two aces and a forehand winner. She moved 5-3 ahead, just as she had done in the second set; Ana was just one game away from the trophy, 
 
Many of Ana’s fans probably experienced a sense of déjà-vu as the second seed again faced two break points while serving for the match. "Not this time," Ana must have thought. She wiped away the break points in extraordinary style with a forehand winner and a winning serve before she wangled a second match point moments later. Another intense rally followed, but when Williams' forehand sailed long, Ana fell to the court and let a squeal of delight as she began the new season perfectly.
 
By Joeri Moerman