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Ivanovic captures 1st Grand Slam title

Ana Ivanovic celebrates after defeating 13th-seeded Dinara Safina during the French Open final. Ivanovic, who lost in the final at Roland Garros last year, will take the No. 1 spot Monday.

Associated Press

Ana Ivanovic celebrates after defeating 13th-seeded Dinara Safina during the French Open final. Ivanovic, who lost in the final at Roland Garros last year, will take the No. 1 spot Monday.

PARIS — Ana Ivanovic overcame her stage fright.

In two previous major finals, Ivanovic was so overwhelmed by the setting, so shaken by the stakes, that her focus fell apart and her shots went awry.

Not on this day.

Already assured of rising to No. 1 in the rankings for the first time, Ivanovic collected Grand Slam title No. 1 by beating Dinara Safina 6-4, 6-3 in the French Open final Saturday.

On the same court where a year earlier, at age 19, she had been reduced to goo in a nervous 6-1, 6-2 loss in the final to Justine Henin, she used the baseline power that had dominated at Roland Garros to come out on top.

Ivanovic lost two consecutive matches on clay before coming to Paris, and she knew she had to change something.

She credits her strength and conditioning coach, Scott Byrnes, with helping find what she called a "tool" to make sure she stays focused on the court.

And it couldn't be simpler: Take the time to pause and breathe.

"My personality is I tend too much to think about what will be and try to think too much in advance, which is definitely not too good," Ivanovic said. "So I found that breathing helps me to go back in a moment and just enjoy that very moment."

That's what carried her through the tightest of times against 13th-seeded Safina, the younger sister of two-time major champion Marat Safin.

"You work so hard off the court, on the court. I love the game and enjoy playing, so this is the best reward I can get," Ivanovic said.

This time the nerves belonged to Safina, 22, and those jitters might have contributed to her tired performance.

She never looked as slow as on the final point of the match, when Ivanovic stroked a soft backhand that landed midway up the right sideline, and Safina couldn't reach the ball until it bounced twice.

Ivanovic sprinted out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set before Safina rallied to tie, and the Russian fans were recalling how Safina had fought off two match points at the French.

It didn't happen again.

"I tried," Safina said. "But I didn't have any more of that fire that I had in other matches. I was just tired, like mental and physically."

On the men's side, No. 1 Roger Federer faces No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the final today.

Nadal is looking to become the first man since Bjorn Borg to win at Roland Garros four times in a row. But Borg said Saturday that he had no doubt what it would mean if Federer finally manages to beat Nadal in Paris.

"He definitely will be the greatest player ever to play the game," Borg said.

Results

At Roland Garros, Paris

Women's championship

Ana Ivanovic (2) def. Dinara Safina (13), 6-4, 6-3

Time of match — 1:38

Ivanovic Safina

1st serve percentage 69 68

Aces 0 2

Double faults 1 5

Unforced errors 22 28

1st serve winning pct. 68 54

2nd serve winning pct. 43 42

Winners (including service) 41 37

Break points 5-9 2-5

Net points 12-16 6-11

Total points won 78 64

Ivanovic captures 1st Grand Slam title 06/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 10:52am]
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