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Ivanovic survives another long battle

FACING two match points and a shock exit, Ana Ivanovic suddenly rediscovered her game yesterday to hold off Italian Roberta Vinci and reach the Brisbane International quarterfinals.

Top-seeded Ivanovic advanced 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-1 over the 82nd-ranked Vinci and next faces former No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, who endured a marathon three-set win over fellow Frenchwoman Julie Coin.

Ivanovic was down a set and gave Vinci double matchpoint at 15-40 in the 10th game of the second. The 21-year-old Serb put everything into her serve and ground strokes and forced enough errors from Vinci to stay in the game. She pulled back to 5-5, broke Vinci and then served out to love, leveling at a set apiece.

She then won nine of the first 10 points of the 27-minute deciding set and raced to a 5-0 lead.

Ivanovic said surviving the close contest gave her confidence ahead of the Australian Open, where she reached the final last year.

"It was really tough. She was playing really well, mixing it up a lot. I wasn't as aggressive as I should have been," she said of Vinci. "I tried to be fitter and tougher mentally than she was and it paid off. So that gives me confidence."

Ivanovic, who spent 12 weeks at No. 1 last season, also struggled at times in her first-round win over Petra Kvitova - her first match of the season - and was pushed to the wire by Vinci, a qualifier for the main draw.

She hadn't dropped a set in two previous wins over the Italian. But that streak was soon ended. After fending off four set points in the ninth game of the opening set, then recovering a break, Ivanovic was outplayed in the tiebreaker.

Ivanovic was only a point from being the second major casualty of the inaugural Brisbane tournament. Her compatriot, and men's top seed, Novak Djokovic was bundled out in the first round.

Instead, Ivanovic will meet 2006 Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Mauresmo on Pat Rafter Arena today. Mauresmo recovered from 2-5 down in the third set to beat Coin 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (11) in her longest ever tour match.

In an earlier second-round match, Italy's Sara Errani beat Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-3.

On the men's side, No. 2 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 3 Fernando Verdasco and No. 8 Radek Stepanek all advanced.

In Perth, James Blake's bid for a third Hopman Cup title will have to wait after the United States slumped out of contention with a 1-2 loss to Germany yesterday.

Blake beat Nicolas Kiefer in three sets to square the match after Meghann Shaughnessy had lost to Germany's Sabine Lisicki in the women's singles, leaving the result hinging on the mixed doubles, which Lisicki and Kiefer won 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 (match tiebreaker).

After losing 0-3 to Slovakia, the US needed to beat Germany and Australia to have a chance of reaching tomorrow's final in the international mixed team tournament.


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