It has been a bumpy ride but former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic remains on course for a Brisbane International semifinal clash with comeback queen Justine Henin.
The third-seeded Serbian held her nerve in her quarterfinal with promising Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to win 6-2 7-6(6) on Thursday.
Already weary after two straight three setters, Ivanovic looked set to play a third on Thursday morning when the Russian teenager fought back from 4-0 down in the second set to force a tiebreak.
The 18-year-old world No.40 even held a set point leading 6-5 in the tiebreak before a clearly frustrated Ivanovic dug deep to close out the match in almost an hour and a half.
Ivanovic has been warmly embraced by the Brisbane crowd since her romance with golfer Adam Scott – and the Pat Rafter Arena faithful initially had plenty to cheer about.
The former French Open champion broke the world No.40 to lead 4-2 – and then it appeared to be all one way traffic.
The 22 year old reeled off seven straight games to take the first set in 30 minutes and lead 4-0 in the second to seemingly have the Russian rising star on the rack.
But Pavlyuchenkova launched her own counter attack, breaking the former French Open champion three times to amazingly lead 6-5 in the second with her serve to come.
Yet Ivanovic held her nerve to immediately break the teenager and force a tiebreak.
The wheels again appeared to have fallen off for the popular Serb when she trailed 1-4 in the tiebreak, and the Russian had a set point leading 6-5.
But with the crowd egging her on, Ivanovic found enough to hold out the Russian upstart and finally clinch her first match at the tournament in straight sets.
Former world No.1 Ivanovic finished 2009 ranked 21st after cutting short her year due to niggling injuries.
And Ivanovic needs to clear some more rust before the Australian Open judging by her display in her first tournament in four months.
While Ivanovic is considered a darling of world tennis, her popularity will be tested if she lines up against Henin in the semifinals.
Henin takes on seventh-seeded Hungarian Melinda Czink later on Thursday.
After the match, Ivanovic paid tribute to the support she receives from golfer boyfriend Adam Scott.
At times Scott has looked like he needs his pulse checked as he’s sat watching an emotional Ivanovic remain on track – just – for an expected semifinal with Justine Henin in the Brisbane International.
However, world No.21 Ivanovic said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That [Scott’s calm facade] is really good to see [in the crowd],” Ivanovic said.
“Because you have so many emotions running through your body.
“It’s good to see someone calm supporting you no matter what the result – it’s great, I really enjoy it.”