Ana edged out by Sharapova

Ana edged out by Sharapova

Ana emerged with a lot of credit from a highly-entertaining clash with world No.2 Maria Sharapova, she but was unable to reach her first semi-final of the year as she fell 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.

The 25-year-old was close to scoring an upset over the defending champion and top seed but, crucially, she could hold serve only once in the deciding set as she tasted defeat after two hours and 16 minutes.

The Russian, who had prevailed in the previous round after a tense three hours and 9 minutes match, was clearly not eager for another wear-and-tear contest. She started the encounter with great aggression and attacked Ana’s serve from the first point, successfully shortening the rallies.

Ana lost her serve immediately, but she had her chances to set things straight in the following game as she earned two break points, capitalizing upon two double faults from the Russian. Unfortunately for Ana, two forehands from her racket ended in the tramlines and Sharapova managed to consolidate the early break.

Ana’s confidence was boosted after holding serve to love in game three and she piled on the pressure onto the Sharapova serve. The 25-year-old unloaded some flashy returns and when a backhand from Sharapova went long, the two former world No.1s were back on serve.

No further breaks of serves were allowed until the eleventh game, as Sharapova took full advantage of a backhand error from Ana while the court was entirely free, followed by a double fault to force the vital breakthrough in the opening set.

Despite the disappointment from dropping the opening set, Ana convincingly saved a break point in the first game of set two to grasp a key hold of serve.

All games in the second set went with serve, until Ana got to 30-all in the 10th game with Sharapova serving. The 25-year-old unleashed a grandiose return of serve to set up a set point, stepping two paces into the court, ready to punish any weaker delivery from her opponent.

The Russian felt the leaden pressure and double-faulted, to take the tie into a deciding set. It proved to be the first set win for Ana against Sharapova since 2007, when she was triumphant at the French Open.

The world No.17 had the psychological advantage after claiming the second set but, following a bathroom break, Sharapova rediscovered her best form and stinging groundstrokes from earlier in the match, while Ana seemed unsettled by the pause in play and she hit two double faults in the opening game.

She added a second loss of serve to love in the third game and faced arrears of 0-3 before Ana also chose to leave the court for a bathroom break. This time, it was Sharapova who was unable to win a point on serve following the hiatus, however this was mainly Ana’s merit as she fired an incredible forehand winner down-the-line to secure the break.

However, Ana’s own serve kept faltering: she had not win a single point during her three service games so far in the third set. Still, another comeback was coming: she trailed 4-1 as things suddenly clicked into place.

Firstly, Ana broke back to reduce the deficit to just one break, followed by a crucial hold of serve and she then broke the Russian to love in the eighth game to level the match at 4-4.

Unfortunately for Ana, she played another loose service game at the worst possible moment. She was broken to love – for the fourth time in the set – which translated into a 5-4 deficit, with the world No.2 serving for the match.

The Russian realized she had to end the topsy-turvy decider while she had the chance and she quickly earned a 40-15 advantage. Ana fought her way past two match points, but a third proved fatal as it was Sharapova who raised her hands after an absorbing quarter-final.

Nevertheless, Ana may reflect upon a successful campaign in Stuttgart. She will now head to Madrid for the Mutua Madrid Open, which will starts on the Saturday 4 May.

By Joeri Moerman