Ana’s Epic

Let’s put Ana Ivanovic’s epic 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 10-8 second-round win over Nathalie Dechy of France at Wimbledon in perspective. The world No. 1 and top-seed at Wimbledon saved two match points – the second with a ripped forehand “winner” that struck the top of the tape of the net and trickled over – while serving at 4-5, 30-40 in the second set. The match will without question go down in the lore of Wimbledon’s history.

Her let-cord winner when down match point will go down with a pair of let cords hit by Boris Becker for perhaps the most famous in tennis history. In 1988, a back-hand let cord winner after a 37-ball rally is all that separates Becker from Ivan Lendl in an epic final at the Nabisco Masters when his backhand crawls over the top of the net to conclude the fifth-set tiebreak. The following year in the second round of the 1989 U.S. Open, down match point in the fourth-set tie-break, Becker benefits from a let-cord that jumps out of the reach of  Derrick Rostagno in his 1-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 come-from-behind victory.

Ivanovic’s survival from two match points down could put her in the position to become the fifth woman to win a Wimbledon singles title after facing match point against them. No player ever turned the trick before the final, but she would join Blanche Bingley Hillyard (1889), Suzanne Lenglen (1919), Helen Wills Moody (1935) and Venus Williams (2005). The summary is as follows, courtesy of The Bud Collins History of Tennis.

Match Points By Women’s Singles Champion


1889 F, Blanche Bingley Hillyard d. Helena Rice, 4-6, 8-6, 6-4. (Saved 3 MP, 2nd, at 3-5)

1919 F, Suzanne Lenglen d. Dorothea Douglass Chambers, 10-8, 4-6, 9-7. (Saved 2 MP in the 3rd at 5-6)

1935 F, 4th seed Helen Wills Moody d. 3rd seed Helen Jacobs, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. (Saved 1 MP in the 3rd, at 3-5)

2005 F, Venus Williams (Seeded No. 14) d. Lindsay Davenport (Seeded No. 1), 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 9-7, 2 hours 46 minutes, longest wom¬≠en’s final, MP at 4-5 in the third set

Ivanovic’s win in three hours, 24 minutes was 21 minutes shy of the longest singles match at Wimbledon set in 1996 when Chanda Rubin beat Patricia Hy-Boulais 7-6, 6-7, 17-15 in the second round in three hours, 45 minutes. That match also lasted 58 games, which is also a Wimbledon record.

Said Ivanovic of her stirring victory, “It was an amazing match. It was very long, close and there were a lot of good rallies. She played really well and gave me a tough match. All congratulations to her. A few balls really decided the game. The final set was tough. It was a long match and there was ups and downs in concentration from both sides. I am really happy I managed to stay calm because the third set was a game of nerves as well.”

Of the let cord winner, Ivanovic said, “My heart skipped a beat because the ball was in the air for a while and I didn’t know where it was going to bounce. Once it went on her side I couldn’t believe it. It was really lucky and from that point on I thought of the match as my second chance.”