Ana Ivanovic needed every scrap of her youthful ebullience on Tuesday to narrowly avoid the humiliation of becoming the first top-seeded woman to lose in the opening round of the U.S. Open.
It took the 20-year-old Serbian just over two hours to make her standing as world number one count against a valiant Vera Dushevina and she eventually booked her place in round two with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win.
Playing as if she had taken a leaf out of Brad Gilbert's tennis manual 'Winning Ugly' or perhaps still troubled by a right thumb injury which ruled her out of the Olympics, Ivanovic randomly misfired her shots to notch up 40 unforced errors.
It led to a fan screaming out in desperation: "You're number one for a reason." She heeded the call to subdue the 57th-ranked Russian on her third match point.
"It was ugly, to put it mildly," summed up John McEnroe, who was commentating on the match for an American network.
Realising how close she had come to establishing an unwanted record, Ivanovic said: "I really hope I can stick around for some time."
Her potential quarter-final opponent, Dinara Safina, kept up her recent hot streak to beat grand slam debutante Kristie Ahn 6-3, 6-4.
Slovakian 11th seed Daniela Hantuchova, however, fell by the wayside when she was flattened 6-4, 6-2 by German qualifier Anna-Lena Groenefeld. Russian sixth seed Safina made no allowances for Ahn, who at 16 is the youngest woman in the draw, and showed off her repertoire of groundstrokes and thundering serves to get her campaign off to a flying start.
French Open runner-up Safina has a 16-1 win-loss record since Wimbledon.