Ivanovic reaches Dubai second round, Stephens bows out
By Matt Smith
DUBAI (Reuters) - Former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3 7-6 in the first round of the Dubai tennis championships on Monday while U.S. teenager Sloane Stephens was eliminated in three sets to cap a miserable debut trip to the Gulf.
Ivanovic's career has dipped since she won the French title in 2008, sinking from number one in the world rankings to 13th, and she was far from flawless on the floodlit Dubai court.
The Serb slipped from 4-0 up in the second set to 6-6 as her first serve percentage plunged, before winning the subsequent tiebreak 7-5.
She was still too strong for 21-year-old Pavlyuchenkova, breaking in the first game and remaining largely in control thereafter, with her Russian opponent's forehand too often found wanting to really put her higher-ranked adversary in trouble.
"I really want to, you know, break into the top 10 again," Ivanovic said. "I feel I have the game, but I just haven't been consistent enough, especially against the top players."
Ivanovic broke for a second time to go 4-1 up in the first set, a fierce cross-court return earning a break point she converted after Pavlyuchenkova thumped a forehand into the net.
Yet Ivanovic immediately lost her own serve to love as the world number 29 closed to 4-3 but the 25-year-old roused herself again, dropping only two points in the next two games as Pavlyuchenkova double-faulted to gift her the first set.
The Serb blamed her second set slump on a troubled shoulder. Continued...