Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner the “It Girl.” Maria “Masha” Sharapova. World No. 2, and while clay is not where you expect to find her playing her best, a Slam semifinal is a corner she regularly frequents.
In this corner, the “Itch” Girl. Ana Ivanovic. Suddenly a Top 10-er, and fulfilling potential many of us saw some years back in a match against Venus Williams in Zurich. Coming in at over 6 feet, and known more for blistering strokes (think hard court) than footwork finesse, Ana might not also be the first player that comes to mind when you think French Open semifinal. But a commitment to clay training and personal fitness, and a reunification with Sven Groeneveld (think Mary Pierce, 2000 French, and you have an idea of the value of having him in your corner) has carried Ana to a Tier 1 clay title and her first Slam semifinal.
Lots of people had this match hinging on the mental state of Ivanovic. Sure, we know she can play. And she’s been putting on a service clinic since she arrived in Paris. But how would a teenager in her first Slam semi hold up under the pressure? Maybe this little glimpse of 12-year-old Ana’s practice sessions should have been a hint: