For Ivanovic fans, it was probably just as well. The 23-year-old Serb was one point away from the biggest win of her recent comeback, leading the second-ranked Clijsters 5-1, 40-0 in the decisive third set. And then it all came undone.
Those three match points were wiped away. Two more followed. By the time it was over, Clijsters had prevailed 7-5 in the third-set tiebreaker 7-5 and completed the most epic comeback on the WTA this year. And Ivanovic had a broken racquet.
Clijsters spoke about her comeback after the match:
"Even if it's 5-1, you start a game at 0-0. Your opponent has to win four points. You just try to work your way back into it. When you feel your opponent starts to be a little less aggressive and makes a few more mistakes, or looks at the sideline a little bit more, you noticed those things.
"That's what made me think there was still a little chance."
Maybe we read that different ways, but that sounds like Clijsters is trying to say Ivanovic choked (in the nicest possible way, of course -- she is Kim Clijsters, after all). Reports from folks in Miami said Clijsters played phenomenally in the final games, painting the lines with rocket groundstrokes and attacking Ivanovic's serve. It takes two to tango, though, and if you read Clijsters' quotes, she makes it clear that her confidence was buoyed by Ana's lack of it. Frankly, whether or not Ana choked is irrelevant. Clijsters believed it to be so and forced the issue.
Ivanovic was more sanguine about the loss than you'd expect:
"It's very hard, yeah -- you should see my racquet. But I felt like I did nothing wrong. I had my opportunities and she played some really good tennis. I fought hard and stayed with her the whole match. I'm of course disappointed but there are positives.
"[...] I kind of broke my racquet, then kind of cried a little bit. And then I was OK."
There were positives. Once Clijsters got back on serve, Ivanovic held at 5-6 to force a tiebreaker. After getting down early in that, she managed to tie at 5-5 before Clijsters won the final two points. Maybe she didn't choke after all.
I don't know, though. Thanks to some bad luck, poor planning and a television network's reluctance to think outside the box, the specifics of what happened Tuesday afternoon on Court 2 will be left to our imaginations.
- Kim Clijsters
- Ana Ivanovic