There was fist-pumping, there was ajdeing, and there was smiling. That's the usual way of things whenever these two meet. But the difference in today's match between the two Serb Sisters is that while Ana typically only has a monopoly on the first two, today she owned all three. She played like she believed in every aspect of her game: her forehand, her backhand, her swing volley, they were all working today and they were all hit with conviction. It was actually beautiful to watch. If you're an Ana fan you know that it's been a loooooooong time since we could truly and honestly say her game was pretty. I don't know what she put in her Wheaties but she played without any doubt today.
Ok...most of it. The toss was still a problem. But again, today was a bit different. Typically, when Ana throws up an errant toss she'll catch it and you'll see her elbow lock and forearm ripple as she seems to be squeezing the ever loving crap out of the ball. I've seen this happen quite a bit. It has always been a sign of tension and obvious annoyance/embarassment with herself.
But that wasn't the case today. More often than not, Ana would just smile in reaction to the particularly egregious tosses. She was laughing with her box, engaging with the crowd, and smiling on missed challenges. On one particularly bad challenge, she started talking to the crowd while Hawkeye was loading to get their opinion. Upon seeing the error of her ways, she started laughing and apologized to JJ for even bothering to challenge. This was a loose kid.
Maybe she knew the Lord Baby Jesus was on her side?
Or perhaps she was playing in honor of Leather, who she has summarily fired. That's right folks. I actually got to break news today! We obviously noticed that Leather wasn't in Ana's box so I asked around, got confirmation of the split, then asked Ana about it in the presser. REPORTAGE. Don't worry. It won't happen again.
But yes, Ana and Leather have split. They remain friends but had differing views on where her fitness needed to go:
"I just felt like I needd to get a little bit stronger. I was feeling very weak on the court and I had quite a few injuries. I just want to take a bit different approach and gain some more muscles beause my game is so powerful. I felt weak and that caused a lot of stress on my body. At the end of last year I lost some weight and I felt really fast and strong on the court, but then I lost too much and I just felt like I couldn't produce anything out of the corners. I was feeling quite weak on the court and I couldn't recover. I just felt like I needed a little bit different approach. I needed to gain some of that strength back. Not dead weight, just some more muscle mass. It's a process.
So there it is. No more Leather. More on that in a bit.
This was a tough loss for JJ, as evidenced by the one hour she spent sitting on the practice field with her team, gesticulating wildly, talking animatedly, miming everything she did wrong and arguing about it. She gave full credit to Ana in the presser and said she just didn't feel like she was moving very well. That's a pretty accurate assessment of the match right there. Ana's strengths (big hitting, big serving, controlling rallies) were on and JJ's strengths (movement, return of serve, consistency) were off. Put it all together and you get a 64 62 loss that saw her coach call her out on a coaching timeout for not having any heart.
Way harsh, Tai.
Resplendent stuff from Ana, who follows in her BFF's footsteps to upset a top seed and more importantly, put together a performance to remind everyone that yes, she can be very good at tennis. With Kim's second set retirement to Mono due to a shoulder injury, Ana's got a real shot here. She'll get Bartoli in the quarters and either Yanina or Shahar in the semis.
With Dinara's run, Masha around, Ana beating JJ, and Sam sucking at tennis, this really does feel like 2008.
Ah...2008. Those were the days.
(Pics: Forty Deuce)