I thought “good for her” when the 58 ranked Ana Ivanovic – who hasn’t won more than one match at a tennis tournament since making the semis in Brisbane in January – beat world No. 32 Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-3 in the first round of Rome. I raised an eyebrow when she took out No. 9 seeded Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-4 in the next round. But Ana’s 6-1, 7-6 (5) victory over Elena Dementieva in the Round of 16 late Wednesday night – well, that merits a:
She’s crediting her coach, Heinz Gunthardt, with her re-found confidence, serve and nerve:
“I definitely feel that I’m playing better thanks to my new coach,” the Serb had said before the tournament began. “I’m more confident and I enjoy going onto the court. I try not to think about the past but I think it’s better to look towards the future. Maybe I will not be exactly what I was in the past but I will be a complete player thanks to the experience that I have built up in the past.”
Honestly, Ana’s a talker. She’s rambled on during the bad times, often sounding like she was trying to talk herself into believing everything would be okay. It’s her racquet that’s doing the real talking in Rome: against Vesnina she never faced a break point – a sign that her serve and ball toss are back on track. Playing Dementieva, it was Ana who held her nerve in the second set tiebreak. So I wouldn’t go signing Heinz a big fat bonus check yet, but Ana’s definitely making some rich deposits in the confidence department. It will get her back in the Top 20 soon enough. Ivanovic plays Nadia Petrova (def. Alexandra Dulgheru-Who?) in the quarters.
I guess we’ll have to can the Serb Slump talk for a while. Indian Wells winner Jelena Jankovic pounded 11th seed Yanina Wickmayer: 6-0, 6-2 on Thursday. Jankovic gets Venus Williams in the quarters. (Venus beat Shahar Peer in her Rd. of 16.) This should be an interesting match – J.J. and V. are tied 5-5 in their head-to-head, with each scoring a win over the other in Rome. Jankovic has won the Rome title twice, in 2007 and 2008, beating Venus along the way in ’08. Venus, who is enjoying a resurgent and consistent season at 29 years old, won her only Rome title all the way back in 1999.
Serena Williams, who took a last-minute wild card into the Rome tournament after not playing since the Australian Open, had a bumpy round of 16 on Wednesday. She needed three sets to take out German Andrea Petkovic, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0. It sounded like she was feeling a little bored during the match (via the tournament website):
“Right now I was supposed to be at the Met Ball in New York with Anna Wintour (editor in chief of American Vogue) and Oprah Winfrey,” lamented the world No.1. “I had a fabulous gown that I was going to wear, and after that I was going to go to the Time 100 as I was chosen as one of the 100 most influential people last year. Unfortunately,” she continued, before correcting herself, “Fortunately – I said ‘I’m going to try to play Rome,’ and so I skipped Oprah and Anna Wintour and it hurt my soul because I wanted to really be there but this is my career and I really needed the extra match. But I’m very sad,” she grinned with her trademark mischievous humour.
She’s joking, people! Isn’t she? Serena takes on Maria Kirilenko in the quarters. Kirilenko upset Serena’s buddy, Svetlana Kuznetsova, in the second round.
Lucie Safarova vs. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez completes the quarterfinal round up in Rome. Martinez Sanchez took out Caroline Wozniacki and Safarova beat Agnieszka Radwanska on Wednesday, so I guess A-Rad and Woz will be buying their own dinners this weekend.
Rome singles quarterfinalists Kirilenko, Martinez Sanchez and Petrova are also playing doubles matches on Thursday. Here’s the order of play:
WTA ROME ORDER OF PLAY for THURSDAY, MAY 6
CENTER COURT start 1:00 pm
L Safarova (CZE) vs M Martinez Sanchez (ESP)
 [WC] S Williams (USA) vs M Kirilenko (RUS)
A Ivanovic (SRB) vs  N Petrova (RUS)
Not Before 8:30 PM
 V Williams (USA) vs  J Jankovic (SRB)
 L Huber (USA) / N Petrova (RUS) vs  B Mattek-Sands (USA) / Z Yan (CHN)
PIETRANGELI start 3:00 pm
 K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) or V Dushevina (RUS) / K Jans (POL) vs  N Llagostera Vives (ESP) / M Martinez Sanchez (ESP) – After Suitable Rest
Not Before 4:00 PM
M Kirilenko (RUS) / A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs  G Dulko (ARG) / F Pennetta (ITA) – After Suitable Rest