Ivanovic sails past Petrova, expected to rise to 4th in WTA rankings

Updated: August 12, 2007, 9:20 PM ET
Associated Press

CARSON, Calif. -- A couple of childhood friends gave Serbia one of its best sporting days Sunday.

Ana Ivanovic hit 31 winners, including 23 off her powerful forehand, and beat Nadia Petrova 7-5, 6-4 to win the East West Bank Classic.

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Ivanovic completed a big day for the Eastern European country by winning her second tournament of the year. Earlier, countryman Novak Djokovic upset world No. 1 Roger Federer in three sets to win the Rogers Cup title in Montreal.

"I saw some of his match," she said. "He played amazing tennis, so I was motivated to do the same thing. That's an amazing day for us."

Djokovic became the first player since Boris Becker in 1994 at Stockholm to defeat the top three ranked players at an ATP event. Besides Federer, he took out Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals and Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.

"It's unbelievable for a small country without such big tennis tradition," he said. "Everybody's wondering themselves how it happened. Probably it's in our water or something. It's great to see."

Ivanovic and Djokovic have been friends for about 14 years. They met as 4-year-olds at his parents' mountaintop restaurant in Belgrade. Growing up, they practiced together and played hide and seek.

"I hated when I had to search for him because I was scared," she said. "We never dreamed we could play Grand Slams at the same level. It's nice to know someone for so long. I love spending time with him."

That includes sharing dinner when their tournament paths cross, but there is no romance going on.

"We are really good friends, nothing more than that," she said.

A year ago, Ivanovic was ranked 19th. On Monday, she is projected to rise one spot to a career-high fourth in the WTA Tour rankings. In between, the 19-year-old was runner-up at the French Open and a semifinalist at Wimbledon this year.

"This is probably the best time of my career," she said.

Ivanovic closed out the 1½-hour match by serving a love game, punctuated by an ace into the outside corner of the service box, one of four she had. The third seed connected on 70 percent of her first serves and was broken just once after saving four break points in her first service game of the match.

She took the first set with a crosscourt forehand winner that was out of Petrova's reach.

"It's very hard to be a set down," the fourth-seeded Petrova said. "You have to start all over again."

Ivanovic led 4-2 in the second set before Petrova's forehand volley winner left the Russian trailing 5-4. Petrova hit 19 winners in the match, which were offset by 22 unforced errors.

Ivanovic dropped one set in five matches in Carson, against Serb rival Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals. She earned $88,260 for the victory.

Petrova's coach had advised the 25-year-old Russian to pull Ivanovic wide by hitting to her backhand, making it harder for the Serb to hit her forehand on the run.

It didn't work.

"She just rips it off without even thinking," Petrova said. "Sometimes I think she didn't even know where it was going. It's the best forehand by far on tour."

Petrova advanced to the final when top-seeded Maria Sharapova defaulted because of a lower left leg strain Saturday night. Petrova, ranked ninth in the world, hasn't won a title since February.

Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan and retired Los Angeles Kings star Luc Robitaille were among the fans at Home Depot Center.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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