"Serena is on top of the game for so long now," Ivanovic told reporters after beating Samantha Stosur in three sets. "She's someone we admire, actually. It's going to be a very tough task. But I look forward to that challenge. I've been playing some good tennis. It's going to be nice to see where I'm at."
Ivanovic, 26, is playing well, coming off the 12th title of her career in Auckland, a three-set victory over Venus Williams. She has won eight matches in a row. It's easy to forget that Ivanovic was a finalist in Melbourne six years ago, when she lost to Maria Sharapova. Four months later, she won the only Grand Slam singles title on her résumé, at Roland Garros in 2008. That was part of the sweet spot of her career, when she reached three major finals in a span of five in 2007-08.
Her year-end ranking, which crested at No. 4 in 2007, has consistently hovered between Nos. 13 and 22 for the past five years.
"Ivanovic, I think, is doing really well," Williams said. "She's on a little winning streak herself."
Stosur was asked how she thought the match would go.
"Anytime you go on the court, there's always a chance," the Australian said, not sounding overly optimistic about Ivanovic's chances. "If [Ana] can keep serving well, be dangerous on her forehand, it will certainly give Serena something to think about."
That isn't likely to trouble Serena, an athlete who somehow has convinced herself that she's not getting older -- just better.