Season review, part two

Season review, part two

We take a look back at the second half of Ana’s 2006

Click here for part one

Ana began life with her new coaching team, Australians David Taylor and Scott Byrnes, a week after Wimbledon. Their first training sessions in Switzerland were gruelling, with the teenager exerting herself harder than ever before in the weeks leading up to the American hard court season.

The results were instantaneously apparent. In her first tournament under the new partnership, in San Diego, Ana looked leaner and moved quicker. She scored emphatic victories over Akiko Morigami and Amy Frazier before losing in three sets to Anna Chakvetadze of Russia for the second time during 2006.

A week later in Los Angeles Ana again looked sharp. She ousted sixth seed Anna-Lena Groenefeld, who was ranked three places above her at the time, before losing a high quality encounter with Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 7-6 in her fifth quarter-final of the season.

Arriving in Montreal, Ana told David that she had a “special feeling” about the tournament. Everything about the Rogers Cup pleased Ana and she blitzed Tatiana Golovin in the first round, scoring her fifth straight win against the 18-year-old Frenchwoman.

Ana had to battle past Jie Zheng, who had just come off a tournament victory in Stockholm, in the second round and she received a walkover into the last eight when Jankovic withdrew from the event because of a shoulder injury.

Slovenia’s Katarina Srebotnik was Ana’s quarter-final opponent. In a riveting match packed with exciting rallies, Ana blasted an incredible 41 winners during a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Her excitement as she reached her first semi-final of the year was clear to see as the teenager jumped up and down following a thrilling final point.

Then world No.14 Dinara Safina, whom Ana had defeated in the third round of Wimbledon, was her opponent in the last four. In a three-part match played over two days because of rain, Ana outclassed the Russian 6-1, 6-4, clinching the final three games when the players returned to the court on Sunday.

The heavens opened again and forced the final, against former world No.1 and No.7 seed Martina Hingis, to be postponed until Monday. Ana was confident going into her second ever final and, playing some of the most free-flowing, fearless tennis seen on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year, she completely overwhelmed the “Swiss Miss”. Ana did not show the slightest sign of nerves as she dominated her more accomplished opponent 6-2, 6-3 to seize her first ever Tier I title. “This is definitely the biggest moment in my career so far,” she wrote in her diary afterwards. So excited was Ana that she, David and her mum forgot to check out of their hotel on the way to the airport!

Ana headed to the US Open as one of the Tour’s form players, but she was unable to replicate the form of Canada, where incidentally she is undefeated: she had to pull out of last year’s Rogers Cup at the third round stage because of injury and boasts a 7-0 record in the event.

She battled past Vera Dushevina in the opening round at Flushing Meadows before a straight sets win over Japan’s Aiko Nakamura. Former world No.1 and seven-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams awaited in round three. The match was postponed because of bad weather and Ana struggled to rediscover her rhythm. New York did not see the best of the teenager and she was defeated in straight sets by the American.

A very disappointing first round defeat in Bali followed, as Ana perhaps struggled to acclimatise to the conditions in Indonesia following a 30-hour journey.

Next up was an appearance in Luxembourg and a nightmare first round draw against the elder Williams sister Venus. Ana’s serve didn’t function as she would have liked and she was beaten in straight sets.

In fact, she had been inhibited on serve by pain in her shoulder. During practice for her next tournament, the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, the pain intensified and was diagnosed as tendonitis. She was forced to withdraw from the event and, frustratingly, was unable to recover in time to compete in one of her favourite events, the Zurich Open.

When Ana did return to action, a month after her defeat to Williams, it was an impressive comeback. She beat then world No.35 Michaella Krajicek in straight sets before dominating the dangerous 17-year-old Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-2 in the second round. What followed was the match Ana’s followers had been waiting all season for – a showdown with Maria Sharapova.

The Russsian was ranked No.3 at the time and was in the midst of a 13-match winning streak. It was a fascinating encounter played at an incredible intensity. Ana produced some terrific tennis but Maria’s superior serving was the difference between the two players. Ana was edged out 7-6, 7-5, having come back from a break down in both sets.

Ana’s final event of the year was in Hasselt, Belgium. She beat unheralded German teenagers Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber in the opening two rounds, but looked tired as Krajicek avenged the Linz defeat in what was Ana’s eighth quarter-final of the year. The season was over and Ana, who climbed from 21 to 14 during 2006 when one takes into account the change in the ranking system, could look forward to a well-earned rest.

“It was another very interesting season,” said Ana. “There were many experiences and I learned a lot. There were some really exciting matches and hopefully the fans enjoyed them. Winning my first Tier I title in Montreal was of course the highlight and I am really happy with my new coaching team. Definitely it was a successful season.”

By Gavin Versi