Mon, Sep 25, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Mauresmo win takes her into Beijing final

AFP , BEIJING

France's Amelie Mauresmo serves to Serbia's Jelena Jankovic during their semi-final match at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing on Saturday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Amelie Mauresmo moved to within one victory of her first title in Asia as she overcame the sixth seeded Serbian, Jelena Jankovic, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3) on Saturday to reach the final of the China Open in Beijing.

Mauresmo's marathon lasting two hours, 41 minutes was in contrast to the stroll of second seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who ended local hopes by crushing Peng Shuai 6-0, 6-2.

Frenchwoman Mauresmo lead by a set and a break before Jankovic began to find her range. Resistance started to stiffen against the top seed with Jankovic taking it into a deciding set.

"It will be another tough match tomorrow," said Mauresmo, who, like Jankovic, lost serve four times in the roller-coaster final set. "I'll have to give everything again like I did tonight."

The match contained 32 break points, with Mauresmo getting out of jail by saving 12 of 18 she faced. Jankovic went seven for 14.

"It was a really tough game. I'm really happy to go through, she played quite well," Mauresmo said.

Mauresmo is playing for the first time in China, with her only previous port of call in Asia the Toyko indoor event in 1999 and 2000.

Rival Kuznetsova, from Russia, is much more at home holding Asian trophies after winning a third career title at Bali last weekend. She made short work of Peng, the home crowd's last hope in the event.

Peng, ranked 60, was out of her depth against the world No. 5, going down meekly in the first set before rallying in the second but to no avail.

The Russian extended her current hot streak to eight consecutive victories. She stands 54-15 on the season.

"I played smart today and Peng didn't play well," Kuznetsova said.

"I think she was a little bit tired. [I felt] physically good. In the first set, I tried to make her move, and made some drop shots," she said.

Kuznetsova trails Mauresmo 2-4 in their career series, but has won their last two meetings, this year in Dubai and Miami.

With Mauresmo standing an impressive 46-10 this season with four titles including her first two majors, Kuznetsova knows she will face a battle for the trophy.

"It will be tough, but it's good to play against top players," said the Russian, who could take over the world No. 4 spot from Kim Clijsters if she manages to lift the trophy.

"She plays with a lot of variety, and I have to face her point by point," Kuznetsova said.

Mauresmo took a 5-1 lead over Jankovic, 17th in the world, but then faced a struggle to close out the set.

The 27-year-old top seed saved three break points in the next game, then followed up a double-fault with an ace for a set point, which she converted after 31 minutes.

The tide turned for Jankovic, who had won 15 of her last 18 matches going in, until Mauresmo managed the tiebreak winner to close out victory.

Peng became the first Chinese player to reach the Beijing semis. The previous best at home for a Chinese was last year, when both Sun Tiantian and Peng made quarter-final appearances.

The Chinese challenger said she was feeling the effects of a recent ankle injury.

"I'm already very tired, and I was afraid to get hurt again. I haven't had a major breakthrough this year like last year," she said.

"But I'm now calmer on court. I wasn't able to fight my best. Against a top 10 player that is a disadvantage," Peng said.

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