MELBOURNE, January 21 – Former finalist and world number one Ana Ivanovic flopped out of the Australian Open on Thursday, losing to experienced Argentinian Gisela Dulko in the second round.
The error-riddled performance by a frustrated Ivanovic was a far cry from the glamour girl’s form in 2008, when she lost the Australian Open final to Maria Sharapova and won the French Open.
The 20th seed recovered from 1-4 down to take the first set against the 36th-ranked Dulko, but struggled with her serve and eventually succumbed, 6-7 (6/8), 7-5, 6-4.
The Serb had all sorts of problems on the serve, countless times aborting her service action after an errant ball toss, and faced 28 break points, nine of which Dulko converted.
Her groundstrokes also deserted her after the first set, hitting just three winners on her forehand and backhand in the second set, while Dulko hit 12.
Ivanovic did have a break point in the second set to go ahead 5-4 and serve for the match, but Dulko staved off the challenge and then won three straight games to turn the match.
Fittingly, successive double faults handed Dulko the leveller.
Although Ivanovic fended off five match points in the third set, Dulko finally prevailed after two hours and 42 minutes.
The disappointing exit for Ivanovic came as she tries to rejuvenate her career after battling indifferent form and injuries last year.
She slipped down the rankings to be outside the top 20 for the first time in five years, finishing the season at 22.
Her best performances were reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon and the French Open, making the third round here and bowing out in the first round at the US Open.
It was the sixth time in her past seven tournaments where she had failed to advance beyond the second round.
Ivanovic clashed with Australian umpire Kerrilyn Cramer over line calls several times, although she was unlucky to be on the wrong end of a poor call to hold serve in the fifth game of the deciding set.
The error helped Dulko hold serve to lead 4-1 and all but sealed the Serbian’s fate, and she was broken again in the next game as the 24-year-old took an iron grip on the match.
While it was another dark day for Ivanovic, it is the first time Dulko has advanced beyond the second round here in seven attempts.