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By Chris Oddo | Saturday, August 16, 2014

 
Ana Ivanovic, Western and Southern Open

Ana Ivanovic nearly blew a set and double-break lead, but in the end she put her best foot forward to finish off Maria Sharapova in three.

Photo Source: Christopher Levy

Ana Ivanovic went to her own private hell and back over the course of her two hour and 46-minute hair-raising battle with Maria Sharapova at the Western and Southern Open on Saturday night, but in the end the surging Serb saved two match points to take down Sharapova, 6-2, 5-7, 7-5.

The outcome seemed very much in doubt after Ivanovic blew leads of 4-0 and 5-2 in the second set, and when she went down with an undisclosed injury in the second game of the decider, it seemed as if Sharapova might run away with the match.

“I really got a little tight,” said Ivanovic. “I wasn’t moving my feet. She’s a great champion, she’s going to use that.”



After the match, the detective work of SI’s Courtney Nguyen revealed Ana’s take on the illness:


But after falling behind 4-2 in the decider, Ivanovic would rally to level at 4-all, only to be broken in the next game and find herself facing two match points with Sharapova serving at 5-4.

But a determined Ivanovic would end up saving both match points and eventually level at 5-all when Sharapova tossed in her second of back-to-back double-faults on break point.

Two games later it would be Ivanovic’s turn to try her luck with two match point, and though she failed on the first, she scorched a crosscourt backhand from the mid-court that Sharapova couldn’t handle to close out the epic victory.

Ivanovic has now won two consecutive matches against Sharapova after dropping seven straight matches against the Russian.

In Sunday’s final, Ivanovic will bid for her fourth title of 2014 against Serena Williams. Ivanovic upset Williams at this year’s Australian Open, but fell to the world No. 1 in Stanford a few weeks ago. “She’s a great champion and it’s good to have her in the final,” said Ivanovic. “It’s definitely tough against the best in the world.”

Notes, Numbers>>>

Ivanovic is guaranteed a ranking of 9 with her run in Cincinnati and could rise as high as No. 8 with a title.

Ivanovic now owns a lifetime record of 4-8 vs. Sharapova.

According to Chris Skelton, Sharapova has not been nearly as successful in three-set matches on hard courts as she has on clay:

 

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