By John O'Brien
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Ana Ivanovic recovered from her opening loss to race to a 6-1 6-3 victory over an out-of-sorts Eugenie Bouchard on Wednesday, putting the world number seven back into the mix for a WTA Finals last-four berth.
The Serb was edged by world number one Serena Williams in her first appearance in the elite eight-woman event since 2008 on Monday, but was ruthlessly efficient on her first serve to breeze past her Canadian opponent in her second match on Singapore's purple hard court.
After Simona Halep had stunned Williams 6-0 6-2 in the first match of the day to virtually assure a place in the semi-finals, Ivanovic drew level with the American on a win and a loss apiece with Bouchard propping up the Red Group following two defeats.
Ivanovic took heart from her 6-4 6-4 defeat to Williams in the tournament curtain raiser on Monday, and carried that form into her match against Bouchard, a player who has beaten her in their two previous meetings, racing to a 5-0 lead on the back of a perfect 12-for-12 points on first serve display.
Short of match fitness, Bouchard struggled with her movement and misfired with her constant attempts to hit booming winners, but finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth game of the opening set before Ivanovic sealed it in the next game.
The 20-year-old Canadian finally won a point on Ivanovic's first serve in the final game of the set but the Serb converted both break points she manufactured, and saved the two she offered, to seal the set in 34 minutes.
"This is the beauty of the round robin system that I still had a chance. No matter what, I came out here today to try to enjoy the match after I had lost to her twice before," Ivanovic said in a courtside interview.
"I knew she was confident coming into the match but I made sure I was aggressive and stepped in, so I am very pleased."
The second set was a much tighter affair after the duo had traded early breaks with Ivanovic seizing control of the contest in a marathon seventh game to edge 4-3 ahead when Bouchard double-faulted on her sixth break point.
It was a pivotal moment and despite looking tight and tentative as the finish line approached, a big serve and beautiful sliced backhand staved off a couple of break points as Ivanovic moved to within one game of victory.
"The seventh game was huge and I had lots of break points that I didn't convert. But I was really happy to finally seal the break and I came strong through a very tough service game straight after," she added.
The 27-year-old could smell blood and put too much gas on a forehand on her first match point but was far more accurate with her second opportunity, another thumping forehand forcing Bouchard to go long, with the Serb raising her arms in victory after 82 minutes.
Bouchard will attempt to gain what appears to be a consolation win against Williams on Thursday before the Red Group concludes with Ivanovic taking on the imperious Halep a day later.
(Editing by Ossian Shine)