Kuznetsova dumps champion Jankovic

ROME: Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova dumpedreigning champion Jelena Jankovic out of the WTA Rome claycourt tournament 6-1, 7-6 (7/3) on Thursday and then shrugged off comparisons with men's claycourt king Rafael Nadal.

World number one Dinara Safina is also through to the last four after winning the last 11 games to dig herself out of a hole against unseededMaria Jose Martinez Sanchez to secure a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 success.

Seventh seed Kuznetsova gained revenge on Jankovic, who beat her in the 2007 final here, the first of two successive titles in Rome for the Serbian world number four.

The Russian 23-year-old, ranked eight in the world, proved too good for the third seed, pinging winners off both wings throughout the match as Jankovic struggled to deal with her opponent's power.

Kuznetsova's opponent in the previous round Flavia Pennetta of Italy said the Russian was the women's version of Nadal.

"That's a big compliment for me but I don't think so because Rafa's won Roland Garros many times and most of the tournaments on clay," said Kuznetsova.

"Maybe of all the girls, I play the most similar to Rafa. Well, I also grew up in Spain on clay court."

Jankovic was gracious in defeat, paying tribute to her opponent.

"She was playing very good tennis. She was hitting the ball very, very well with a lot of power and deep," admitted the Serbian.

"She didn't allow me to play my game. From the beginning I didn't play tactically well.

"I played what she liked and she has more power than me. Today was her day, she was the better player, she deserved to win."

The Russian fired over 27 winners to just 12 from Jankovic, more than making up for her 25 unforced errors, only six more than her opponent produced.

Kuznetsova is aiming for her second title of the year and in successive weeks having won the Stuttgart indoor tournament on Sunday.

The first set was one-way traffic as Jankovic failed to get a foothold in a match that looked to be running away from her.

But in the second she knuckled down and stayed in contention, although she still went down a break.

The Serbian's battling qualities came to the fore as she hung in there and broke back to love when Kuznetsova was serving for the match at 5-4.

And Jankovic even had two set points at 6-5 and 15-40 on Kuznetsova's serve but she could take neither and the Russian went on to stroll through the tie-break before sealing the victory with another typical backhand winner down the line.

She next plays sixth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus who beat Estonian 16th seed Kaia Kanepi 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, sealing the match with an ace.

Safina looked to be a world of bother as she failed to handle Martinez Sanchez's unorthodox game.

The Russian top seed trailed by a set and a break as her Spanish opponent, ranked 48 in the world, mixed up her game brilliantly.

For a set and a half she was a breath of fresh air, serve-volleying on occasions, running Safina all over the court with a mixed of heavy top-spin forehands and subtle sliced drop shots.

At a sand 3-1 up she had break points for a 4-1 lead but she failed to take them and thereafter Safina's superior power told as she bludgeoned through 11 games in a row to reach the last four.

She will play five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in the last four after the American fourth seed thrashed 10th seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-2, 6-1.