The former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic had to save two match points against unheralded Lucie Hradecka to reach the second round of the Wimbledon tennis championship on Tuesday.
Fans clambered into precarious positions to catch a glimpse as the drama unfolded on the intimate court four, where the 2008 French Open champion struggled to contain the ambitious Czech’s lethal double-handed backhand in a 5-7, 6-2, 8-6 victory.
The 26-year-old Hradecka, whose left thigh was strapped, had a determined air about her as she made the 13th seed’s shots look as flimsy as the wispy layers of the Serb’s skirt.
The Czech pumped her fists in celebration as Ivanovic’s backhand went long to hand her the first set on her first appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon.
The 21-year-old Serb, a semi-finalist here in 2007, swapped her racket at 2-2 in the second, which seemed to do the trick as she immediately broke and did not drop another game in the set.
Ivanovic, who looked to be tossing the ball slightly out of line before serving, broke in the ninth game of the decider.
She was then serving for the match, but Hradecka fired another unreachable backhand to save match point.
After breaking, the Czech then held and earned two match points of her own, but Ivanovic smashed her way out of trouble.
Two games later, the Serb looked up to the sky in thanks after a lucky net cord set her up with two more match points and she snatched victory when Hradecka’s service return went wide.
Ivanovic, who has slipped from top of the rankings to No. 12 over the past year after some indifferent performances, will face Italian Sara Errani for a place in the third round.
Marat Safin’s final match took place on cozy Court 18, tucked in a corner of the All England Club, closer to the exit than to the court where trophies are handed out.
That was appropriate, because Safin always seemed to have one foot out the door. Playing his final year on the tour, the mercurial Russian lost in the first round on Tuesday to American Jesse Levine, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4.
Safin smiled when asked how he felt to be done at Wimbledon.
“Relieved,” he said.
The two-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1 never really took to grass, although he came to accept it as a brief, necessary annoyance at the start of each summer.
His best Wimbledon run came last year, when he reached the semi-finals before losing to Roger Federer. But he won only 16 of 26 matches at the All England Club, and could recall only two where he played well — against Goran Ivanisevic in a loss in 2001, and in a win over Novak Djokovic last year.
“Marat’s a great player, and I’ve watched him play growing up,” said Levine, 21. “So it’s a pretty surreal experience to be his last match at Wimbledon.”
Another American, two-time Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick, beat big-swinging Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-3.
On the women’s side, American Melanie Oudin pulled off a surprise in her tournament debut, beating No. 29-seeded Sybille Bammer 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. The 17-year-old Oudin, who is from Marietta, Georgia, earned her first win in a major event.
Also advancing was this year’s winner at Roland Garros, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and top-ranked Dinara Safina.
No. 3 Andy Murray began his bid to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936 by beating American Robert Kendrick 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4. That match took place on Centre Court, where the new retractable roof remained open for the second day in a row.