As the world No.1 six years ago, Ana Ivanovic arrived at Wimbledon as a Roland Garros champion with hopes of reaching a third straight Grand Slam final.
Her bid would unfurl in just the third round that year. Her conqueror, Jie Zheng, would go on to become the first Chinese player and the first wild-card to reach a Grand Slam semi-final.
On Thursday, the Serb finally had her chance to exact revenge, swinging with authority on her way to a 6-4, 6-0 triumph in just over an hour.
Coming off her first grasscourt title in Birmingham, Ivanovic was a different player to the 20-year-old who crumbled against Zheng bearing the weight of expectations in 2008.
“It's been so long ago I don't even remember. Definitely it's been a slow, slow climb back,” Ivanovic said of her return to form in 2014. “I felt like I been playing a lot of matches and a lot of good victories this year I had, and rankings didn't really resemble that, which was little bit hard to take because you put so much hard work and then yet you're dropping in the ranking list.”
Zheng, languishing at No.66 in the rankings from a career-high of No.15 five years ago, was bringing her own run of form on the green turf to Wimbledon having reached the final in ’s-Hertogenbosch last week.
She started the stronger of the two; her early break of serve setting off a succession of breaks between two of the players with the heaviest return of serves in the women’s game.
With Ivanovic serving for the set at 5-3, China’s No.4-ranked player struck two heavy forehand winners to break for 4-5.
If holding serve wasn't proving difficult enough, Zheng wasn’t helping her cause. She opened with a double fault, before Ivanovic turned a brilliant defensive point around to thump a forehand pass ricocheting off her opponent’s racket. She would need three set points to get it done but a second double fault from Zheng handed it to her 6-4.
With the wheels well in motion, Ivanovic carried her free-swinging momentum into the second set to claim the last seven games of the match.
She held with an ace for 3-0, and jammed on the return of serve, she sprung an off-forehand winner to secure the double break and a double fist pump for 4-0. In full flight now, the No.11 seed held to love with another ace and brought up match point with a rolling backhand pass catching Zheng’s racket frame.
She followed a heavy approach shot in on match point to clock a forehand winner cross-court and set up a third-round encounter with last year’s finalist Sabine Lisicki.
It puts to rest a disappointing defeat in last year’s second round where she crashed out to Eugenie Bouchard and as the highest remaining seed in her quarter of the draw, she stands a good chance at edging closer to emulating her career-best run to the semi-finals at Wimbledon 2007.
“I'm sure [the ranking] will take care of itself later in the year,” Ivanovic said. “I don't try to think too much about that or obsess. I really try to do my work on the court, try to win the matches that I should, and to improve in each match.”
For now, it is the wins, which count. Ivanovic will take a second Grand Slam title any day over a return to the top spot.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."View all