Melbourne: A resurgent Ana Ivanovic shook off her girl-next-door image and revealed a delicious mean streak on Sunday as she dumped an injury-hampered Serena Williams from the Australian Open fourth round in one of her finest victories in years.
A one-Slam wonder long derided as brittle in the clinches, the 26-year-old Serbian overhauled the raging favourite 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a dazzling display of power hitting that left the Rod Laver Arena crowd thrilled and astonished in equal measure.
Restricted by a back injury and numbed with painkillers, world No. 1 Serena struggled with her movement, but was given no quarter by Ivanovic, who attacked the American’s serve with arrogance and closed out the match with barely a hint of nerves.
The greatest player of her generation, Serena has long traded on her aura and a CV boasting 17 Grand slam titles, and 14th seed Ivanovic faced a battle to forget her opponent’s fearsome reputation and her winless record against her.
“We all know what kind of champion she is,” Ivanovic said after reaching the quarter finals at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2008.
“When we were starting the match and they were talking about all her Grand Slam titles, it was quite impressive. I just stayed in the moment physically. I didn’t think much about who I was playing, because it can get overwhelming.”
Having never won a set, let alone a match, against the American in their four previous career meetings, Ivanovic ended the American’s 25-match winning streak that included last year’s US Open and a perfect end to the season.
Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou revealed the 31-year-old had “blocked” her back during practice before the third round but the American refused to lean on it as an excuse.
“I almost didn’t play,” she said. “But, hey, I did, and at least I feel good that I tried the best that I could on this day. At the end of the day, it’s not the end of the world. I feel like I’ll win (the title) again.”
Famous for her disdain for cooler weather, Serena emerged onto the court like a CEO, wearing a smart tuxedo jacket over her matching pink skirt, but it was Ivanovic who was dictating terms from the outset.
The Serbian earned break points against Serena in the first game and broke the American for only the second time in the tournament at 2-2 in the first set. Affronted, Serena hit back with a string of sizzling returns and broke her opponent twice to seal the opener.
Ivanovic shrugged off the setback and stayed true to her gameplan, breaking Serena again at 2-2 in the second.
The Serbian raised huge roars from the terraces by lacing a searing forehand winner, one of 33 for the match, on set point to send the contest to a decider. Ivanovic marched on, breaking Serena’s serve to surge to a 3-0 lead in the third and completed the upset by serving out the match to love.