Ana Ivanovic has prevailed in a battle of former world No.1s, holding out a Venus Williams fight-back to win the ASB Classic tennis final in three sets.
The 6-2 5-7 6-4 victory gave the Serbian, seeded second in the tournament, her 12th singles title and came after 2hr 19min on court.
World No.16 Ivanovic didn’t drop a set on her way to the final and her run looked like it would continue in the early stages of Saturday’s contest.
Williams, who has fought health issues in recent years and is now ranked 47, had booked her berth in the final via a walk-over against injured compatriot Jamie Hampton.
The 33-year-old American struggled in the opening set with her famed heavy serve and she was also hampered by unforced errors.
The five-time grand slam champion quickly found herself 1-4 down after dropping serve twice, and then couldn’t convert two opportunities to break back in the next game.
Ivanovic was solid as she closed out the set.
One break of serve mid-way through the second set kept the former French Open champion on the front foot.
Williams had the capacity crowd on her side as she tried to keep herself in touch and managed to ward off one match-point.
She then mounted a come-back, twice breaking Ivanovic to tie the match.
But Williams dropped her serve in the opening game of the deciding set to fall behind again.
Both players produced some big shot-making but Ivanovic, who had won only once against Williams in nine previous attempts, didn’t relinquish her advantage and served out the match.