Safina sets up final showdown with Jankovic
CINCINNATI: World number one Dinara Safina cruised into the final of the two million-dollar WTA Cincinnati Open on Saturday as Jelena Jankovic clawed her way into the title match.
Safina needed just 56 minutes to post a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Italy's Flavia Pennetta. She improved to 7-0 lifetime against Pennetta, who was coming off a third-round victory over Venus Williams here as well as a title in Los Angeles last weekend.
In Sunday's final, Russia's Safina will take on fifth-seeded Serbian Jankovic, who emerged from a scrappy match with a 7-6 (7/2), 0-6, 7-6 (8/6) victory over fourth-seeded Russian Elena Dementieva.
Jankovic squandered three match points in the third set as Dementieva forced the tiebreaker.
She fell behind 6-2 before winning the final six points, finally sealing the victory after 2hr 46min.
She and Dementieva combined for 13 breaks of serve and 25 double-faults.
"I don't believe I won this match," Jankovic said.
There were no such worries for Safina, who reached her eighth final in 14 tournaments this year.
"Every match I feel better," said Safina, the French Open and Australian runner-up who eliminated former world number one Kim Clijsters in the quarter-finals to end the Belgian's first comeback tournament.
"Today, stepping on the court, I was feeling very good and confident. I was feeling very good stepping in." Pennetta admitted her run of success, which saw her playing her 11th match in 13 days, had taken a toll.
She had blisters on her feet and played with her aching right ankle taped.
"She was playing much better than me," Pennetta said. "I was a little bit tired, of course, but I didn't lose for that. She was playing unbelievable." While Pennetta didn't want to make excuses, Safina said she could tell her opponent was running on empty.
"I know how it is playing that many matches in a row," Safina said. "When somebody starts to put pressure on you from the first, it's tough mentally to face it." Safina won the first six points of the match, earned an early break to take a 2-0 lead and never looked back.
"That was the key for myself. I wanted to put the pressure and to dominate, and not let her get into the match," Safina said.
By reaching the semi-finals, Pennetta ensured she will become the first Italian woman to break into the top 10 when the rankings come out on Monday. She started this week ranked 12th.
Safina, 23, will try to wrap up her 17th straight week at number one with a title on Sunday.