Birmingham - Former French Open winner Ana Ivanovic, seven times a season-end top
20 player, has at last moved closer to a dream by reaching the first
grasscourt final of her career on Saturday.
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.
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."
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
"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."
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
"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."
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.
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
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
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
"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.