Tue, May 20, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Jelena Jankovic defends her title on Rome’s clay


Serbian defending champion Jelena Jankovic ended the giant-killing run of French qualifier Alize Cornet on Sunday at the WTA Rome International, trouncing the 18-year-old 6-2, 6-2.

Cornet had no answer for Jankovic’s relentlessly consistent ground strokes as the errors piled up, reducing her to tears at the changeover when she was trailing 1-4 in the second set.

Jankovic, 23, joins fellow Serbian Novak Djokovic in the winner’s circle here after he defeated fast rising Swiss player Stanislas Wawrinka in the men’s final of the Rome Masters a week ago.

“It’s great for Serbian tennis,” said Jankovic, ranked fourth in the world. “It’s a Serbian revolution. I’m so happy Serbia is doing so well.”

Jankovic, although she hardly showed it, said she was “very nervous” on the court.

“I was the favorite and had the pressure on me. I’m glad I could win it a second time,” she said.

The precision serve that had helped Cornet defeat two Russians in the top 10, fifth-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova and eighth-ranked Anna Chakvetadze, deserted her on Sunday.

“I’m very disappointed, but next time it’ll be better,” said Cornet, who dropped only one set — to Chakvetadze on Saturday — on her way to the final in the clay court warm-up for the French Open starting on Sunday.

“I was tired, so it was much more difficult than the other day ... I couldn’t do my best because of my six matches before,” said Cornet, whose run here began with three qualifying matches. “I wasn’t nervous before the match, I was very cool.”

In a tournament hit by several late-stage withdrawals, Jankovic booked her place in the final without hitting a ball when Maria Sharapova pulled out of their scheduled semi-final with a strained calf muscle.

For her part, Cornet ducked a quarter-final encounter with sixth-ranked Serena Williams, who withdrew with a back injury.

Sunday’s final was Cornet’s second on the WTA tour, having lost in Acapulco to Italian Flavia Pennetta in March.

The French sensation will see her WTA ranking rise from 34 to about 22 thanks to her success here.

Jankovic paid tribute to Cornet, saying she was a “young player with great potential.”

She sympathized with the teenager for crying, saying: “I know how it feels. I’m the same.”

At the net after the match, “I told her she had a great week and she has a great future ahead of her, she just has to keep going and her time will come,” Jankovic said.

Looking forward to Roland Garros, Jankovic said Justine Henin’s retirement had improved her chances at the Grand Slam event.

“She was the only one I couldn’t beat on clay — and on hard courts as well — so I have a better chance. I think I have a big opportunity to do very well at the French Open,” she said. “My dream is to be No. 1 in the world. At the moment I’m on the right track.”

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