BERLIN (Reuters) - Serbian teenager Ana Ivanovic fought back from a set down to win the first title of her career on clay on Sunday, defeating Russian third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6 6-4 7-6 in a thrilling final at the German Open.
The tall 19-year-old from Belgrade, seeded 12 here, started nervously in sunny conditions at the Steffi Graf Stadium, allowing the powerful world number four to race into a 3-0 lead inside 10 minutes.
After losing the first set, Ivanovic battled back into contention with some robust hitting of her own and held her nerve to take the decisive tie-break 7-4 when Kuznetsova hit a forehand long.
With the French Open looming at the end of this month, Ivanovic said the victory in Berlin had improved her chances of success at the only grand slam played on clay.
“It’s obviously very exciting,” Ivanovic said at a news conference. “Maybe I have more expectations now but I also don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.”
Ivanovic, who may break into the top 10 for the first time when the updated rankings are published on Monday, said she had been suffering from a troublesome ankle during Sunday’s match but was still likely to play at this week’s Rome event.
“I took some painkillers but they didn’t kick in until the end of the third set so I tried to hit winners earlier in the rallies,” she said. “It’s probably nothing too dangerous.”
Kuznetsova was playing her second match of the day, having earlier beaten world number one Justine Henin 6-4 5-7 6-4 in their interrupted semi-final which began on Saturday.
The former U.S. Open champion had beaten the Belgian only once in 15 previous meetings and lost to her in last year’s French Open final.
Kuznetsova said at a news conference her victories this week over Henin and defending German Open champion Nadia Petrova had boosted her confidence ahead of Roland Garros, which begins in Paris on May 27.
“I was disappointed to lose the final today of course but I have been winning against top players and I am very happy about that,” she said. “I’m on the right way.”
Henin, who has won three of her five grand slams in the French capital, said earlier it had been a very demanding week in Berlin, with numerous interruptions for rain and poor light, blustery conditions and slippery courts.
“It was very dangerous actually and everyone was scared they were going to get injured,” she said, adding that she would be taking two weeks off to rest and train.
“I had a good preparation here and a lot of matches on the clay and that’s good for the French Open,” she said.