Michelle Larcher de Brito pulled off the biggest shock of the WTA Birmingham tournament to date with a stunning 6-4 3-6 7-6(6) victory over the defending champion Ana Ivanovic.
The Portuguese famously beat Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon 2 years ago, one of her four top 20 wins in her career. In making it five, she extended her winning record on the surface at main tour level to 10-6. She showed why she held such a record in the first set, rushing into a 3-0 lead over the second seed and eventually holding off Ivanovic to take the first 6-4.
Both players remained solid on serve, with just the one break point opportunity available in set two. Ivanovic, who hit 7 aces in the second set and 15 in total, would take it to gain a 5-3 lead, part of a run of 5 straight games from 3-3 in the second to 2-0 in the deciding set. It seemed like class would tell in the third but Ivanovic faltered, twice giving up break leads with the second when she was serving for the match.
While this was Ivanovic’s first match since the French Open, Larcher de Brito had played six matches on grass this year – something the Serbian admitted played some part in the loss. “It’s tough playing someone who already had a few matches on the grass” the Serbian said.
Larcher de Brito has made more headlines for her on court grunting than her actual tennis but proved that she can go toe to toe with some of the best, especially on her favoured surface. Her reward for the victory will be a matchup with either Daniela Hantuchova or Marina Erakovic, the former of which won the title in Birmingham in 2013. A win or two more would strengthen her case for a main draw wildcard at Wimbledon with the tournament having precedent for rewarding players who perform well at the lead up tournaments.
Meanwhile, it remains a disappointing return to the court for Ivanovic in what has been an up and down year. The former No.1 moves onto Wimbledon, a tournament which she has only managed to make it through to the quarter finals or better on one occasion (2007 SF).
Other winners on Day 3 included two former champions. 2007 winner Jelena Jankovic advanced with a straight sets win over Casey Dellacqua while 2009 champion Magdelena Rybarikova defeated Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. Klara Koukalova won the last 10 games in her match against Caroline Garcia and Christina Mchale was victorious over Misaki Doi.