Nervy Ana fights back to set up clash with Sharapova

Last updated at 15:00 24 January 2008

Ana Ivanovic believes today's topsy-turvy semi-final performance could work to her advantage when she faces Maria Sharapova in the final of the Australian Open on Saturday.

The pair won through to the title match in contrasting styles at Melbourne Park. Sharapova crushed a physically and emotionally battered Jelena Jankovic 6-3 6-1, while Ivanovic lost the first eight games of her match to Daniela Hantuchova before winning 0-6 6-3 6-4.

Serbian Ivanovic, however, was not concerned at the physical toll the match had taken on her body, instead preferring to dwell on the positives which arise from playing such a high-pressure match.

"I think there are benefits from both because obviously you want a bit of an easier match so you can be fresher, but on the other hand in these kinds of matches I can take a lot of confidence," she said.

"I managed to fight through the match and this is definitely very positive. I feel really fit and most importantly I have no injuries. I just wanted to stay there and play and take my chances."

Ivanovic was a finalist at last year's French Open, but Sharapova will hold the edge in terms of experience in Saturday's showdown.

"When you have experience behind your back it's a huge advantage," said two-time grand slam winner Sharapova, who was thrashed in last year's final at Melbourne Park by Serena Williams.

"Even though I had a tough year last year, you still learn and gain so much from bad experiences as well. I've been in numerous grand slam semi-finals and a few finals.

"Even if I'm playing someone that's 26 years old or 27 that has much more experience behind their back, you hope that the experience that you have and the thrill to be out there will help you get through."

While Ivanovic and Sharapova aim to win their first Australian Open crown, the tournament is over for Hantuchova and Jankovic.

A shattered Hantuchova, who was playing her first grand slam semi-final, could not explain how she lost the match after such a dominant opening.

"Good question. If I knew that I think I would have changed it while I was still on the court," said the Slovakian.

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Ivanovic (left) shakes hands with Hantuchova

"You know, that's tennis. Sometimes you can do all the right things, all the best things. Maybe you just need a little more luck to get through.

"Honestly, I thought I was very close. I had a great opportunity but it just didn't happen for me today."

Jankovic revealed she came close to conceding her semi-final when trailing 3-5 in the opening set after sustaining a painful back injury which would later reduce her to tears.

"I wanted to withdraw, but it was not fair for the crowd. It's a semi-final so I played as best I could to finish the match," said Jankovic, who admitted she had been battling thigh and buttock strains during the tournament.

"It was painful. I was playing throughout the first set, and actually when it was 5-3 I was kind of coming back. But at some point during that game I felt a strange pain in my back where I felt like I was so stuck.

"And that was the time when I felt it's over. I cannot keep going anymore."