Williams pushed hard by Serbian teenager
October 21, 2004
ZURICH, Switzerland (AFP) - Venus Williams
barely survived a spirited challenge from Serbian teenager Ana Ivanovic
before earning a tense 7-6 (13/11), 7-6 (8/6) victory at the 1.3 million dollar WTA event in Zurich.
Her win set up a quarter-final clash with Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova
, but the seventh seeded American had to fight off five set points in the opening set tiebreak and three more in the second tiebreak.
Ivanovic, ranked 155 and playing only her fourth match in the main draw of a WTA event, matched the former world number one from first ball to last. Still 16, the 2004 junior Wimbledon runner-up used the confidence gained from winning all 31 of the Challenger matches she has played this year to stretch Williams to the limit.
She served well, struck her ground-strokes with pace and accuracy and showed a superb tactical awareness to keep Williams under pressure. Rallying strongly from the baseline, she forced her opponent to overhit the ball on countless occasions, and showed no sign of nerves in the most tense moments.
Although Williams broke to lead the first set 3-1, Ivanovic broke back in the seventh game, and then escaped a set point at 6-5 when Williams netted a weak return.
In the tiebreak, Ivanovic earned five set points, before a backhand error gave Williams the set on her third set point.
It appeared that Williams might take control when she broke for 2-0 in the second set, but three more breaks followed to leave the players tied at 4-4.
Ivanovic again resisted pressure as Williams held two break points to lead 5-4, and three more break points at 5-5, to take the match into a second tiebreak.
Ivanovic then built a 6-3 lead, but she was unable to close out the set as a desperate Williams claimed the next five points and the match.
Third seed Elena Dementieva
overcame fellow-Russian Elena Bovina
7-5, 3-6, 6-0.
It was a patchy performance from both players, who traded powerful groundstrokes but made a succession of often unforced errors. They both also had difficulty holding serve, with five breaks in the first set and five in the second, before Bovina's game totally disintegrated in the third set as she constantly overhit the ball.