For the second year in a row at the US Open, Ana Ivanovic defeated Sloane Stephens in the third round. The question now is, can the Serb overcome the obstacle of the Grand Slam fourth round that has troubled her since her 2008 French Open trophy?
Sixty-two spots higher in the WTA rankings than in their last year's US Open match, the 19-year-old Stephens, the youngest Top 50 member, hit 10 double faults against Ivanovic, but was greatly helped by Ivanovic's 56 unforced errors. In the deciding set, however, Ivanovic reduced the number of errors, from 21 and 22 in the first to sets, to 13, and her winners-UE differential improved from -8 in the first and second set, to -3 in the third, while Stephens converted just one out of seven break points in that third set and hit six double faults.
Ivanovic's opponent in the fourth round will be Tsvetana Pironkova, and although they are tied at 1-1 in head-to-head, their last meeting was before the 2008 French Open. Pironkova is best known for her 2010 Wimbledon semifinal, when she became the first Bulgarian, male or female, to play a Grand Slam semifinal.
The Bulgarian, who turned pro in 2002, is a hilarious character. Do you know that only last year she realized that ranking points are awarded at all WTA tournaments and not just Grand Slams?
I've been a pro for a while, but I must have missed that memo. I go to some of those tournaments, of course, but–unless I get the urge to upset one of the big stars–I like to leave early. The practice, the locker room chaos, the crowds–it can be so dreary.
Plus, she actually loves the rain at Wimbledon, because she loves water and her father was a canoe champion and mother a swimming champion:
The problem I have with tennis courts, is that they're dry. That's why I like Wimbledon; there's usually a lot of rain, and I can splash around like I do at home.
So, who's your pick, Ivanovic or Pironkova? I believe in Ivanovic! (photos: © Neal Trousdale)