The last women’s quarter-final of the day might be the most low-key, but it offers a prime opportunity for two players at different points in their careers. Check out the Ivanovic vs Svitolina Head to Head.
That Ana Ivanovic is resurgent this season isn’t in doubt. She’s beaten Serena Williams, won three titles and broken back into the top ten for the first time in years. But is she merely playing better than she has done in a while, or is she on the cusp of recapturing the consistent high-level form that brought her the French Open title and the number one ranking in 2008? Ivanovic reached the latter stages in Rome and won the trophy in Birmingham this season, but she failed to get past the third round at Roland Garros and Wimbledon immediately after those events. We need to see deep runs week-in, week-out before we can consider her a realistic US Open contender.
After coming close to another upset of Serena Williams in Stanford but then falling to Coco Vandeweghe in Montreal, it seems that Ana is having another good week in Cincinnati. She dispatched Sorana Cristea in straight sets, dropped only four games to Christina McHale, then held her nerve to oust a game Svetlana Kuznetsova. Thursday’s battle with the Russian was not pretty: Ivanovic and Kuznetsova exchanged 11 breaks of serve and the unforced error count was predictably high, but it was Ivanovic who managed to keep her cool in the deciding set. She won 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in one hour, 54 minutes.
Ivanovic’s opponent on Friday is probably the least well-known of the Cincinnati quarter-finalists, even though she beat the Wimbledon champion on her way to that stage. Elina Svitolina’s 6-2, 7-6(2) defeat of Petra Kvitova was the biggest win of her career by far, but just as impressive was her workmanlike follow-up of that breakthrough on Thursday. In a competitive third round match, she recovered from a set down to beat 15th seed Carla Suarez Navarro and reach the last eight of a Premier 5 event for the very first time.
Svitolina has been tipped as a promising up-and-comer for a while. Is she now ready to emulate fellow youngsters Eugenie Bouchard and Sloane Stephens by making a move towards the top 20? The Ukrainian has notched up a lot of wins this summer, reaching the quarter-finals in Istanbul and defending her title in Baku. She’ll certainly have nothing to lose against Ivanovic tonight. The Serb is expected to win: she dominates the head-to-head 4-0 and is by far the more decorated and experienced player.
But Ivanovic’s career has been full of matches that she should have won but didn’t. Sometimes her A game just isn’t there, and her B game, to the extent that she has one, is fragile. Few players are more wonderful to watch than Ivanovic when she’s on form; few are as frustrating when the shots misfire.
Prediction: We’ll tip Ana to beat a nervous Svitolina in three, but would anyone be surprised if the underdog soaked up a plethora of Ivanovic errors and scored the upset?