By David Packman
Veteran Spanish baseliner Annabel Medina Garrigues has kept Spain’s hopes alive in the Hyundai Hopman Cup 2013 final, toppling in-form Serb Ana Ivanovic in a thrilling three-set encounter 6-4 6-7(3) 6-2.
The upset victory, which lasted two hours and thirty-eight minutes, levels the tie 1-1 after Novak Djokovic took care of Fernando Verdasco earlier in the evening.
The match looked set to highlight a contrast in styles with Ivanovic expected to use her penetrating serve and heavy forehand to create short, sharp points while Medina Garrigues would extend points in the hope her opponent would eventually come unstuck.
But with Ivanovic approaching the kind of form that took her to the top spot in the world in 2008, the waiting game usually employed by the veteran Spanish baseliner was never going to cut it on a hard-court, and from the outset she purposefully changed gears in an attempt to take it right up to the Serb.
As the first set unfolded, Medina Garrigues’s strategy was paying dividends.
Despite losing the first two games of the match, she was troubling the Serb who was required to dig deep time and again to find answers.
The wily Spaniard kept her opponent under constant pressure, pinning her to the back of the court and painting the lines with some excellent shot making whenever the opportunity arose.
With Ivanovic, ranked 13 in the world – some 37 places higher than her opponent – continuing to struggle on serve, and Medina Garrigues mounting some brave attacks, the Serb eventually succumbed on the sixth break point against her in the third game.
The set was back on even terms, and the Spaniard continued to apply the pressure on the Ivanovic serve. At 4-4 she deservedly got another chance, breaking the Serb again with a big forehand before going on to serve out the set 6-4, finishing it with an ace down the middle.
It wasn’t long before the Serb started to get on top in the second set and she excited the packed Perth Arena with an array of winners as Medina Garrigues began to retreat to her more traditional style of play.
Ivanovic quickly moved to 5-3 but inexplicably dropped serve to love to allow Medina Garrigues an opportunity to level. The Spaniard duly lifted and used the momentum to force the second set to a tiebreaker.
Looking down the barrel, Ivanovic remained composed and played some of her best tennis of the night to snatch the tiebreaker 7-3.
In the deciding set the veteran Spaniard showed no signs of slowing. She rushed out to 3-0 displaying the kind of aggressive tennis we saw from her in the opening set.
With both players clearly wilting, the gap proved enough and, although Ivanovic had some slender opportunities to claw back, the Spaniard hung on and even added some icing on the cake with another break to secure victory.
On court after the match, an exhilarated Medina Garrigues said she had been dreaming all her career to win against a great player in a stadium like Perth Arena.
“I’m 30 years old and finally I did it, so I’m really happy.”
The tie now moves into a live mixed doubles rubber to decide the final.