Ivanovic nears her grasscourt 'dream'
Serbia's Ana Ivanovic hits a return to China's Shuai Zhang during the semi-final of the Birmingham Open at the Edgbaston Priory Club in central England, on June 14, 2014 - by Andrew Yates
The 26-year-old Serbian former world number one's thumping 6-2, 6-2 win over Zhang Shuai, the ninth seeded Chinese player, enhanced a claim she made at the start of this week's Birmingham Open that she is overcoming her insecurities on this surface.
Ivanovic certainly hit ground strokes with stoppable force, especially from the forehand, and grew conspicuously in confidence against an opponent contesting her first Premier level event in only her second grasscourt tournament.
Asked if she now felt like a genuine grasscourt player, Ivanovic smiled and said: "Well, definitely after the end of that match. You know after a slow start I picked up my rhythm and played really well."
Her imposing performance should make her an even stronger favourite for Sunday's final against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, an unseeded Czech who will also be contesting her first grasscourt final after overcoming two rain delays and Casey Dellacqua, the 16th seeded Australian, by 7-6 (7/5), 6-1.
"It would be wonderful to win a grasscourt title now," Ivanovic said.
"It would be a dream come true. And of course Wimbledon is still regarded as the most prestigious title of all."
The 2007 Wimbledon semi-finalist added however that she would not be getting ahead of herself and already seeing herself as a potential champion at the All England Club.
"You know what, after thinking that in the French Open, I don't want to ever think like that again," replied Ivanovic, who has won the Roland Garros title only once, back in 2008.
"You know it's a long way away. I really just want to keep my mindset, be happy and enjoy each match and each challenge."
To negotiate that emotional last step Ivanovic may need to avoid the wobbles which contributed to her indifferent start against Zhang, in which she was unable to land a first serve and quickly went 0-2 down.
"It was important to stay calm, because it's grass and it can slip away from you fast," Ivanovic said. "I was happy to stay calm and get back into the match."
She did so by improving her serving sufficiently to create a platform for her ground-stroking power, which soon made Zhang feel that she needed to do more with the ball, causing more errors.
The 25-year-old from Tianjin occasionally generated the rhythm and the angles which helped her to three good victories during the week, but found it impossible to reverse the tide once it had turned against her.
From 0-3 in the second set Zhang showed brief signs of getting back into it by reaching 2-4, but Ivanovic then unveiled some of her most flowing tennis, making her appear almost a grass court natural.
"Zhang is a great player and you are going to hear a lot more of her," Ivanovic said of an opponent, who will not this year emulate her compatriot Li Na, the 2010 Birmingham winner, but who should now climb beyond her career high ranking of 34.