It’s been a long time between drinks for Lucie Safarova. Seven years since her team was last toasting a fourth-round berth at Roland Garros the Czech leftie has equalled her best run on the clay with an upset of former champion Ana Ivanovic on Suzanne Lenglen Court.
While Safarova had won her past four matches against the Serb, she had lost their only prior encounter on clay – during Ivanovic’s 2008 title run. The year before she had reached the last 16 having beaten Amelie Mauresmo at a second successive major. Those matches were distant memories in Saturday’s 6-3, 6-3 dismantling of the 11th seed.
“I went out like this that I won the last four [but it is] always a tough match with her, she’s a great player,” a beaming Safarova said after the 89-minute triumph. “I’m very excited about that. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the fourth round here. I think I was playing very solid today, and I was not making a lot of mistakes. I was pressuring Ana into her backhand side and then attacking the forehand side, which was working well. I was serving decent."
With games on service at 3-3, Ivanovic survived a break point by winning a 17-shot battle of aggression, closing with an off-forehand putaway. Safarova though would land the break with a screamer of a running forehand up the line for 4-3. On a roll, the Czech 24th seed began to swing freely, clocking back-to-back forehand winners to bring up set point before Ivanovic sent a backhand wide to relinquish the opener 6-3 after 41 minutes.
A set and a break up, Safarova looked to be coasting to victory. The Serb had other ideas. She broke for 2-3, however, her inconsistency came back to haunt her. Safarova immediately broke for 4-2 and with Ivanovic throwing in a fourth double fault at 2-5, the Czech stood at match point. Far from a foregone conclusion. Safarova held a match point in her third-round loss at the Australian Open this year only to miss a forehand by centimeters. Her opponent, Na Li, would go on to win the title.
There would be no repeat of that scenario at Roland Garros. Despite letting her first opportunity slide, Safarova would make no mistake of it with the match on her racquet; one final shanked forehand from Ivanovic handed Safarova a crack at a second former champion in the form of Svetlana Kuznetsova. Safarova finished with three more winners than the Serb and her 18 unforced errors showing a far greater consistency than Ivanovic, who committed 30.
No time for toasting a fourth-round run yet. The 2009 champion awaits.