Epic final to Ivanovic as errors undo Venus

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:02 05/01/2014
Ana Ivanovic
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UNDER THE PUMP: Ana Ivanovic plays a forehand in the final.
Venus Williams
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FIGHT BACK: Venus Williams refused to give up.

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It was the final everyone dreamed of and it was the match everyone hoped for.

The ASB Classic has never had players of the calibre of Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic in any match, let alone the final.

So when the draw and results panned out perfectly, all that was left was for these two former world No 1s, with eight Grand Slam titles between them, to play out an epic.

And in front of a sold-out stadium, in high humidity, they delivered that, with Ivanovic eventually triumphing 6-2 5-7 6-4 after two hours and 19 minutes of gripping tennis.

Ultimately, Ivanovic deserved to win. She was the more consistent player, served better and made fewer errors.

But Williams isn't called one of the greatest players of all time for no reason. Even though she didn't play as well as Ivanovic, she's a born fighter.

She's had to be that the whole of her life, from the racism she experienced at an early age, to the debilitating Sjogren's syndrome, a fatigue-causing autoimmune disease that she's had to cope with in recent years.

Having been comfortably outplayed in the first set and most of the second, she finally came good when down 30-40 and 3-5 in the second set and trying to save a championship point.

She won the point with a huge serve.

It changed the momentum of the match and she went on to take the set. But Ivanovic got a break early in the third set and it was a lead she never relinquished.

For the Serb, this was her 12th title and first since Bali in November 2011.

"It's very special," the world No 16 said.

"Every victory is special, but this one even more so because it's been a while since I've won a tournament.

"I've really worked hard and I felt like I deserve it, but to actually make it happen and especially in a final against such a good player, it's very thrilling."

Ivanovic has been the most consistent player over the week - she didn't drop a set until the final, and at times it was just like seeing her winning the French Open in 2008 all over again.

"Coming into this week I didn't have any expectation, didn't think about the final," she said.

"Winning it, I just played each match and I really enjoyed it.

"I've really felt comfortable here and today was a great match. Playing Venus, she's such a great champion and she showed that again.

"After losing that second set a few nerves kicked in and I managed to stay calm in the third set, despite the fact that she had break points to go back to 5-5, I managed to play some great tennis and close out the match."

Every champion is asked whether they'll come back to defend their title.

Ivanovic provided the usual response, that she wants to. Naturally that depends on negotiations about her appearance fee, but she does have a genuine desire to return.

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"I really felt comfortable, I love this place. I really want to come," she said.

"Novak [Djokovic] always wants me to play Perth with him and it's always a special week, but I love it here.

"So to be able to come back and defend the title and actually come back earlier and enjoy the beach too would be amazing.

"I already told my parents to book a late flight [today] so we can enjoy a bit of the beach and nature.

"It's probably the most amazing nature I've ever seen."

So not only might Ivanovic come back next year, but she's promised to talk to Djokovic about the men's tournament in Auckland.

"I'll put a good word in, I'll get a percentage!" she laughed.

- Sunday Star Times

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