By Megan Fernandez
Ana Ivanovicâ€™s summer turned cruel Saturday afternoon at the Western & Southern Financial Group Womenâ€™s Open in Cincinnati. With her ranking south of 60, her request for a Montreal wild card denied (and later offered, and declined), and pundits convinced she should play challengers to gain confidence, Ivanovic arrived in Cincinnati this week in desperate need of something good to happen. And it did. In the first round, she came back from a set and a break down to beat world number 11 Victoria Azarenka, who was leading the Olympus US Open Series at the time. Ivanovic won three more matches to reach her first semifinal of the year. If she wasnâ€™t all the way back, she was at least on a roll.
And then, at 1-2 against Kim Clijsters, a routine sidestep to the forehand side. An audible “crack.” A medical timeout. And too much pain to continue the match. An MRI later showed that Ivanovic suffered strained ankle ligaments, and the recovery time has yet to be determined. Just like that, she was back to leaving the court in tears.
Thanks to the Montreal flap, the 23-year-old Serbian is off next week and is scheduled to play the Pilot Pen Championships in New Haven, Connecticut.
Clijsters, who went jogging after the abbreviated semi, was also on a roll when the match ended abruptly. “I was really into it,” she said. “The contact I had with the ball was a lot better than my previous matches. A little disappointed not to have that rhythm, whether I would have won or lost.”
Rain interrupted the doubles match between top seeds Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova and fifth seeds Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs. When play resumed with Raymond-Stubbs leading by a set and two breaks, they took advantage of their opponentsâ€™ miscommunication and subpar volleying to close out the match 6-4, 6-2.
Maria Sharapova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova squared off in the all-Russian second semifinal, getting just a bit of a late start shortly after 7 p.m. Pavlyuchenkova, the winner at Istanbul two weeks ago, stayed with Sharapova until she was serving at 4-4 in the first set. A pair of double faults gave Sharapova the break, and she served out the set.
Pavlyuchenkova took a medical timeout for a sore right shoulder between sets. In the second set, the lights on Center Court malfunctioned, and the players took a 20-minute break. Afterward, Sharapova dialed back the aggression and Pavlyuchenkova began stepping into her shots. She broke Sharapovaâ€™s serve twice to even the match at one set all.
At 2-3 in the third set, the match started to slip away from Pavlyuchenkova. Sharapovaâ€™s shots pierced the baseline, and several times the younger Russian started to stop play and challenge, but thought better of it. But those tiny hesitations left Sharapova in charge of the rallies, and she earned double break point. Pavlyuchenkova held on, fought off a third break point, and finally reached game point. Again, she threw in a pair of double faults. Sharapova went on to break, and didnâ€™t lose another game. The final score was 6-4, 3-6, 6-2â€”and Sharapova remains undefeated in Cincinnati for her career
Sundayâ€™s draw card of Clijsters and Sharapova playing for the singles title (following the doubles final with Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko taking on Raymond and Stubbs) may finally draw a full house to the Lindner Family Tennis Center, where attendance has been surprisingly low for even the biggest matches this week. The ATPâ€™s main draw begins Sunday evening, which will put a few more bodies in the stands. At least the tournament organizers wonâ€™t have to focus-group their way to a solution for next year: In 2011, the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters and Womenâ€™s Open will become a combined event over eight days.
“I got some blood work done in Washington, and then again in Texas. I guess Iâ€™ve been dealing with a mild, mild case of mono for the last couple months that I wasnâ€™t really sure about. I opted out of four or five workouts this summer; Iâ€™ve never done that before. It was just me wondering if I was out of shape or why there was this lethargic feeling. The good news is [Iâ€™m] ready to rock.” Andy Roddick at a press conference before Sundayâ€™s start of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 tournament.
Megan Fernandez is coveringÂ both the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters and Women’s Open for Global Village Tennis News. She’ll also be posting updates, commentary and photos on our twitter account – @GVTennisNews .