Mon, Jul 28, 2008 - Page 18 News List

Safina beats Jankovic to reach final

TREMBLING Safina, who will move from No. 9 to No. 8 in the WTA Tour rankings regardless of how she does in the final, will be looking for her second title of the year

AP , CARSON, CALIFORNIA

Dinara Safina of Russia returns to Jelena Jankovic of Serbia during the women’s singles semi-finals of the East West Bank Classic Day 6 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

Dinara Safina stopped Jelena Jankovic’s quest to take the world’s No. 1 ranking and swept into the final of the East West Bank Classic with a straight-sets victory on Saturday.

Dinara Safina stopped Jelena Jankovic’s quest to take the world’s No. 1 ranking and swept into the final of the East West Bank Classic with a straight-sets victory on Saturday.

The Russian won 7-6 (3), 6-1 to set up a final against Italian Flavia Pennetta, who was a 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 winner over unseeded American Bethanie Mattek in the other semifinal.

“It was another great match,” said Safina, who let a 4-2 lead get away in the first set but won five of the final six points in the tiebreaker and dominated the second set. “I stayed aggressive and didn’t let down.”

Jankovic would have taken the No. 1 ranking from Serb compatriot Ana Ivanovic had she won this tournament.

“Hopefully, my time will come,” Jankovic said. “It’s not the end of the world.”

Jankovic, who is recovering from a knee injury she suffered at Wimbledon, said she had only four days of practice before opening play in Carson.

“Just to be able to play this tournament for me was very exciting because I was supposed to be out for quite a long time,” she said.

“She was the better player today,” Jankovic said. “I had some chances. I played a bad tiebreaker. I made a lot of errors and let some opportunities go. In the second set, for some reason I couldn’t run anymore. I was tired and my legs were shaking. I didn’t have the power to continue.”

Safina, who will move from No. 9 to No. 8 in the WTA Tour rankings regardless of how she does in the final, will be looking for her second title of the year and seventh overall. This will be her fourth final in her past five events, including the French Open.

The 26-year-old Pennetta is 0-3 in her career against Safina.

She will move from No. 21 to at least No. 16 in next week’s WTA rankings after playing her way into her first final at the Tier II level. Pennetta has won six titles and played in 23 other semi-finals, all at the Tier III level.

Pennetta needed treatment for blisters on her left foot after each of the first two sets.

She found herself in trouble early against Mattek, facing at least one break point in every service game in the opening set and losing serve twice.

Pennetta lost serve in the first game of the second set, too. But she broke Mattek in the second game and took control by fighting off three break points to hold serve, then using a break and a hold for a 4-1 lead.

The third set of the nearly three-hour match was one of tenuous holds and missed opportunities until finally, on her third match point on Mattek’s serve, Pennetta laced a backhand crosscourt winner.

“It was completely heart,” she said. “It was not a great match, for sure. I didn’t play very good. It’s very important to win when you don’t play your best.”

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