Story by Colin Tung/Red Sports. Photos by Lim Yong Teck/Red Sports

WTA Finals Serena Williams vs Ana Ivanovic

Serena Williams of USA gestures to the audience after winning her round robin singles match of the WTA Finals against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia. (Photo 1 © Lim Yong Teck/Red Sports)

Singapore Indoor Stadium, Monday, October 20, 2014 — Match-point secured, Serena Williams finally broke into a smile and acknowledged the crowd’s support in her 6–4, 6–4 win over Ana Ivanovic.

She had her index finger raised to the sky, gesturing the number one, which is also the rank she seeks to defend at the season-ending WTA Finals featuring the world’s top eight women’s tennis players.

That defence had left her screaming “Come on!” several times and executing splits while chasing down returns from her opponent, demonstrating that a career 7–1 win-loss record against Ivanovic was no comfort bringing into the match.

In the first set, Ivanovic came back from 4–1 down to level the score at 4–4. Williams held out, however, first by holding serve in the ninth game, then breaking Ivanovic’s serve to close out the set 6–4.

The second set was a tighter affair with Ivanovic and Williams taking turns to break each other’s serve in the opening two games. Each holding serves for the next seven games, the score was poised at 5–4 in the set with Ivanovic needing to hold serve to stay in the match. She failed to do so, as Williams screamed in joy, elated to get her tournament off with a win.

At a post-match press conference, Williams said, “I was up 4–1 in the first set and cruising, and she (Ivanovic) does what she does best. She started playing really, really good tennis.”

Commenting on her on-court shouting to rouse herself, Williams said, “I felt like my energy got a little low, and then I just tried to do everything I can to bring my energy level up or just to fight. Because if I’m not playing well, I have to rely on other things. So then, I think at that point, that’s when the match really turned and got super intense.”

Jax Lee, 14, a student from St. Joseph’s Institution (SJI), was one of the Serena Williams supporters.

“It’s a very interesting match and we got the tickets for free and it’s the first time they are having it in Asia,” said the school tennis player who caught the match with his father and older brother, Joel, also a SJI student, with tickets given by the school. Jax had just finished tennis training in school.

After the match, Jax said, “I feel a surge of pride for my tennis idol as I have been supporting her since I was 10. Every cheer and applause I showed, together with the countless other supporters with me at the stadium, has contributed a part to her success. I definitely hope she will be the WTA Finals champion again this year.”

Support for Ivanovic was equally, if not more, audible than that for Williams. Several times during the match, shouts of “Come on, Serena!” would be matched by those for the 26-year-old Serb.

Contract teacher Stephanie Tabalujan, 24, had paid for a category one ticket valued at $58.90 to catch Ivanovic, whom she proclaims as her favourite player, in action.

“Firstly, she’s pretty. She doesn’t scream as much as other players; she has her own charisma when she plays,” said Stephanie.

28-year-old ship broker, Charlie Tan, was also another Ivanovic fan.

She said, “Serena – she’s got tons of fans and supporters. I’m supporting the underdogs.”

Charlie had made her way to the Singapore Indoor Stadium after work, just in time for the opening ceremony, which featured percussion group Urban Drum Crew, a live musical performance by international pop group Us the Duo, the 80-member strong Singapore Symphony Children’s Choir singing the national anthem, and Li Na hitting the ceremonial first serve (in heels no less). The highlight, however, was none of those but the “anticipation of the opening game”.

“We always watch this on TV so watching it live is different. I expected the sound of the ball hitting the racquet to be louder though,” said the former touch rugby and rugby player in school who now plays tennis recreationally.

Seated third row from the front, Charlie had as close a view of the court and the players as a ticket would allow. Gushing, she asked this writer, “She (Ivanovic)’s very hot, right?”

Results (Red Group)
(1st seed) Serena Williams (USA) beat (7) Ana Ivanovic (Serbia) 6–4, 6–4
(4) Simona Halep (Romania) beat (5) Eugenie Bouchard (Canada) 6–2, 6–3

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