Since Ana Ivanovic won the French Open in 2008, she never had made it past the fourth round of any Grand Slam tournament. Monday, she moved on to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, a place she's never been. And there she will slam directly into Serena Williams.
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Ivanovic and Williams have played each other only three times, with Williams winning each match in two sets. The last time was at last year's Open.
For Ivanovic, the long wait to go deep in a major tournament is over. "I take four years holidays," she said with her ever-present smile.
Through the first four rounds, she has displayed her characteristically strong ground game and her characteristically inconsistent serve. She even managed to pull off some drop volleys against Pironkova, a shot that she often has attempted, and failed to convert, at crucial moments.
"I like to play those kind of shots. In practice, I do it all the time," Ivanovic said. "I thought today, I did it actually in a few really important moments. I was fortunate it went my way. Sometimes it's not the best choice of shots but I still felt like I had a good touch today."
Now she faces the most powerful and dangerous player in women's tennis.
"Last year when I played her here, I thought I had some chances in the second set," Ivanovic said. "But it's always tough. She's obviously a great player and she's been, I think, playing the best of all the girls on tour at the moment. She's been having so many victories lately. Her serve is definitely her strength. I really have to be sharp from the first moment."
Williams has 29 aces through the first four rounds with a fastest serve recorded at 124 mph. Plus, she has won 72 percent of her second-serve points.
"I think the goal will be to make as many returns as possible and try to look for opportunities and the little windows you might get," Ivanovic said. "That's basically the only way to put pressure on her second serves."
This has been a spectacular summer for Williams, with a Wimbledon victory followed by an Olympic gold medal followed by a hard-court title at Stanford. She's lost only 12 games through the first four rounds here and has been on the court for only 4 hours, 35 minutes.
When statistics like that are put to her, she discards them.
"I don't think it says anything," Williams said. "I just think it says I'm focused."
As to the quality of her play, Williams said: "I honestly don't think I started out strong in the tournament. I feel like today I am getting more comfortable with the court and comfortable with the conditions. I'm getting back to more my game. I like to play better in the second week."
So what did she take out of her match against Ivanovic last year?
"Was it here?" she responded. "OK. I remember clearly not a lot, but will be looking at the film."