Porsche Tennis Grand Prix
Ana’s first meeting with the red clay in 2016 ended in the second round at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart as she lost to world No. 18 Karolina Pliskova. In the first round, she had beaten home player and rising star Carina Witthoeft in overbearing fashion.
The opening exchanges against the young German went equally. All of the first four games were easily won by the server and no break points were allowed until the fifth game, when the qualifier broke Ana’s serve to love. The latter immediately tried to react, steering Witthoeft to all corners of the court but – to her credit – the German didn’t let down and she consolidated to break.
And so it continued, with both players regularly producing fine winners, until the German had the chance to serve it out at 5-4. It was just now that Witthoeft felt the pressure: her arm got a bit shaky and Ana was finally rewarded with what she had been searching for all set long: a re-break. A tiebreak would ensue.
Ana quickly got to a 4-1 lead and was never really troubled from this point on, however Witthoeft had refound her better arsenal of groundstrokes. Clinching three points in a row, Ana steamrolled from 4-3 to 7-3 and won with that the first set.
Once Ana had that opening set under her belt, she seemed utterly released. Her forehand swung freely and she put a major pressure on the Witthoeft’s serve with some top-class returning. The German was unable to get on the scoreboard in the second set, as Ana displayed an extremely accomplished performance to get her clay season off to a flying start.
In order to reach the quarter-finals, Ana had to get past Karolina Pliskova. The odds were against the 28-year-old, as she had never before managed to beat the Czech out of four earlier encounters.
Ana’s serve hadn’t yet clicked into place as the match got underway. She delivered three double faults in the opening game - compared to just one during the rest of the match – and got broken after a six-minute-during opening game. Despite breaking back in the next game, a third consecutive break of serve followed, which gave the Czech the upper hand in the early stages of the contest.
Pliskova, serving ten aces throughout, surged on into a 3-1 lead as she got rid of two break back opportunities for Ana in the fourth game. However, Ana felt she clearly had her chances on during the service games of the big hitting Czech. After holding for 3-2, she stepped into the court and realized the re-break to restore parity at 3-apiece.
Unfortunately for Ana, she was unable to follow-up those two impressive games with another comfortable game on serve. For the third time in the set, Pliskova surrendered the former world No. 1’s serve and went 4-3 up. Ana could not recover from this mental punch and despite two tight games on the Czech’s serve, the set went Pliskova’s way.
Also early in the second set, Ana was overtaken by events. She could win just one point in the first three games of act two and trailed 4-0 in a blink of an eye. Ana fought gamely, but Pliskova’s tennis proved too good, clinching victory in just over an hour.
R1: Ana vs. C. Witthoeft (WTA-82) 7-6(3), 6-0
R2: Ana vs. K. Pliskova (WTA-18) 4-6, 2-6