Ana defeats Serena - media reaction

Ana defeats Serena - media reaction

The world's press were universally full of praise for Ana following a potentially career-defining victory over world No.1 Serena Williams in the Australian Open fourth round on Sunday. Reports of Ana's match dominated the sports sections on Sunday morning.

Sports Illustrated's John Wertheim, one of the world's leading tennis writers, summed up Ana's superiority off the ground:

Misleading as tennis stats can be, in this case, the scoresheet serves as forensic evidence. Ivanovic won more points overall and 16 more points returning. She hit 20 forehand winners to Serena's two. Ivanovic won more points behind her first serve. In short, she "out-Serena'ed" Serena. "How did it happen?" Ivanovic giddily asked after the match. 

His colleague Courtney Nguyen, in her popular Beyond The Baseline blog on SI.com, focused on the unlikely nature of Ana's win, after she lost the opening set:

Even with a break lead early in the final set, an Ivanovic victory seemed far off. She was on a roll in every facet of the game, swatting return winners off Williams’ second serve and stepping in to control as many rallies as possible with her forehand. There would be no wobble this time: Ivanovic held her final two service games at love. For a player who has struggled with her serve over the years, Ivanovic faced just three break points in the match, all in the first set. Williams went nine consecutive games without earning a break point.

Ivanovic beat Williams for the first time in five attempts, snapped the 17-time major champion’s 25-match winning streak and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the first time since 2008.

The Telegraph newspaper in London put the victory into context by highlighting the highs and lows of Ana's career:

The 26 year-old reached the Australian Open final in 2008 and followed up by winning her maiden grand slam title at the French Open the same year to become world number one.

Great things were predicted but the weight of expectation was too much for Ivanovic at such a young age and she had managed only one more grand slam quarter-final.

This was without question her best grand slam victory since winning Roland Garros, and she was nerveless serving it out to love.

Inevitably perhaps, some American media focused on an injury that Williams' coach apparently revealed to the press.

However, USA Today's Chris Chase, under the headline, "Plain and simple, Serena Williams got beat", wrote:

Most surprising was that Ivanovic won the match by beating Serena at her own power game. She hit 20 forehand winners to Serena’s two. She returned Serena’s powerful serve with ease, giving herself 14 break opportunities during the match. Ivanovic, a player who’s snatched defeat from the jaws of victory countless times over the past five years, was even able to hold her serve with ease when victory was close. Even after Serena held with a dominant game at 2-5 in the third and everyone in Rod Laver Stadium could feel a slight momentum shift, Ivanovic clinched the match with a service game at love.

In Serena’s last two major losses — to Sloane Stephens in the 2013 Australian Open and to Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon later that year — she did more to lose than her opponents did to win. And, to be fair, she didn’t play well against Ivanovic. Her balance was off and her footwork non-existent. In her post-match press conference, she spoke of a nagging back injury, though she gave all credit to Ivanovic. Serena isn’t usually one to give excuses, especially when the best explanation for her Sunday loss is more simple than that.

On this particular afternoon, injury or not, she wasn’t the best player on the court. It’s not often Serena Williams can say that at a Grand Slam.

Similarly, Richard Hinds, writing in Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper, highlighted Serena's recognition that Ana was the better player:

SERENA Williams arrived at this Australian Open hoping to win the 18th grand slam title that would tie her with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on the all-time winners list, behind only Margaret Court, Steffi Graf and Helen Wills Moody.

This, we - and particularly the bookmakers who made her an odds-on favourite - had assumed would enhance Williams' increasingly compelling claim to be considered the greatest female tennis player of all time.

So how was it that for almost all the one hour and 56 minutes of Williams' 6-4 3-6 3-6 defeat to Ana Ivanovic she was not even the best player on Rod Laver Arena? How was Williams so badly humbled by a player who had not taken a set from her in five previous encounters?

The answer came in the moments after the match. It came in the long and clearly heartfelt congratulations Williams offered Ivanovic at the net and the mantra she repeated often at her press conference: ''Full credit to Ana. She played a great match.''

So often in the past Williams has been accused of being a sore loser. It says something about how well Ivanovic executed a devastating game plan that, this time, Williams was just sore.