Tennis: Dream final still on cards

By Michael Brown

Ana Ivanovic. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ana Ivanovic. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Two close friends and two Americans will square off in tomorrow's semifinals of the ASB Classic but most will be hoping for a dream final between two of the biggest names in women's tennis.

Ana Ivanovic and Kirsten Flipkens, who played doubles this week together, will meet in the first semifinal before Venus Williams takes on compatriot Jamie Hampton in the late match.

Ivanovic and Williams have been the faces of the tournament, and it's only natural considering their standing in the game. There has been a degree of relief the pair made it to the last four, especially after one of the best fields in recent times was shorn of five of the eight seeds in the first round and left with a number of players unfamiliar to most casual New Zealand tennis fans.

An Ivanovic-Williams final match-up is not guaranteed, however, and it's one that would cost the tournament more in appearance fees, given Williams' payout for playing in Auckland is more lucrative the deeper she progresses.

Flipkens beat Ivanovic in their only meeting to date in Linz 2012 and has the sort of game to upset a power hitter like the former world No 1. She mixes things up with slice backhands, charges to the net and driving forehands.

"I'm not as tall as the other ones who just try to hit it,'' the Belgian said. "I try to mix it up and let them think. It's more difficult for them to play against my type of player than someone who is playing forehand, backhand 200 miles an hour. I'm just trying to do my thing.''

The third seed and world No 20 has done it well so far this week, winning all of her matches in straight sets, including today's quarter-final against qualifier Sachie Ishizu 6-4 7-5.

Ivanovic has also been relatively comfortable and has at times played scintillating tennis. Today she beat Japan's Kurumi Nara 6-2 6-3 in a match that was tougher than the scoreline indicated.

Venus Williams has also got better with each match. The five-time Wimbledon champion today dispatched promising Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 6-3 6-3 in her most commanding performance of the week. She even sent down a serve that topped 202kmh, only 5kmh off her world record.

"The ones that top 200 are the ones I'm trying to bring the heat,'' Williams said. "It's fun being a big server.''

She will meet a gritty opponent in Hampton, who eventually overcame hitting partner Lauren Davis 6-2 4-6 6-4 in two hours 14 minutes. It was a match littered with errors - Hampton made 76 as she sprayed the ball around the court - and 30 break points and 12 breaks of serve.

"I'm actually very proud of myself,'' Hampton said.

"I was miserable at times out there on the court. It's hard when you are making error after error after error. I missed so many returns today and my first serve percentage was low but, overall, there are nothing but positives. I think I competed really hard and did my best to stay positive even though things at times in the match weren't looking that great for me.''

She was hoping Williams would win her quarter-final - she wants to measure herself against a player of Williams' quality and standing - and victory would also see her go one step further than last year when she was beaten by eventual champion Agnieszka Radwanska at the same stage.

"She doesn't have to measure herself against me,'' Williams said. "She's already in the top 30 and is a good player. I will have to play well to win.''

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 22 Aug 2014 16:51:06 Processing Time: 945ms