Ana Ivanovic finally conquered her grasscourt gremlins with her first-ever tournament win on the surface, a 6-3 6-2 victory over Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova earning her the Birmingham Open title.
The top-seeded former world No.1 did not drop a set throughout the tournament, the final taking only 73 minutes, and the weight and earliness of her hitting – so perfectly suited to the slick, fast top – proved too forceful for all her opponents
Strycova, an unseeded Czech playing in her first final in a Premier level event, had her moments, but was eventually overwhelmed.
She broke serve at the very start, almost broke back in the fourth and sixth games of the second set and saved two match points in the eighth, but often foundered because she attempted a little too much against such a domineering favourite.
Ivanovic’s victory was as much over herself, and her inner doubts, as a valiant but outplayed opponent.
“You’re waiting for such a result and now it comes and I’m very happy, but I didn’t expect it,” she said.
Asked for how she managed to win at last on grass, she said: “The biggest challenge for me at the moment is to be okay with not playing a perfect game, not playing a perfect shot.
“Even when opponents play well, it’s very important for me not to dwell on it, but just accept it, move on, and try to do my best each point.”
For the second day in succession Ivanovic started indifferently, dropping serve immediately, and for the second day in succession she emerged without drifting into longer-term trouble.
Ivanovic served better second time around, and a game later made the first decisive breakthrough. It was two penetrating backhand drives, not her biggest weapon, her forehand, which did the damage.
Ivanovic showed few signs of uncertainty on a surface she has previously claimed not to like, holding serve twice more to close out the first set.
She broke again in the third game of the second and accelerated towards victory.
Ivanovic will rise two places to world No.11, and is well-positioned to climb back into the top 10 for the first time in five years at Wimbledon.