World No.1 Books Semi Berth
DOHA, Qatar - Jelena Jankovic confirmed her place in the semifinals of the Sony Ericsson Championships with defeat of Svetlana Kuznetsova on Thursday. The world No.1 and top seed had to draw on steely resolve for her 76(6) 64 win over the Russian, however.
Jankovic got off to a flying start, breaking Kuznetsova with ease in the first game and keeping hold of the advantage for a 5-3 lead. But, serving for the first set at 5-4, she wobbled: Having lost just three points on serve up to that point, Jankovic handed the break back to the No.6 seed, and despite breaking again for 6-5 the Serb repeated the trick to pave the way for a tie-break.
There, Jankovic stole the initiative back, and although Kuznetsova won four points in a row to stay in contention, the favorite took the set on her fourth opportunity.
The second set became a battle of attrition, as the players held serve for 4-4. But after Jankovic moved ahead 5-4 Kuznetsova was serving to stay in the match, and she gave way under the pressure. Up to this point both players had converted on break points twice, but Jankovic timed the necessary extra breakthrough to perfection.
"In the beginning for a couple of games I played very well, but then I kind of stopped," said Jankovic, who hurt her back midway during the match. "In the second set I took a lot of pace off my ball, which allowed her to step in the court and start hitting some of her shots. But then at the end of the second set I was able to focus a little bit more and push myself, and finish in two sets."
With the win, Jankovic goes 2-0 in the round robin, and regardless of the result of her match on Friday against Vera Zvonareva, will be in the semis on Saturday. With two wins of her own, Zvonareva's qualification is also assured, as the other two players in the White Group, Ana Ivanovic and Kuznetsova, have both suffered two losses. But with a $100,000 bonus going to the player who finishes on top of the White Group standings, Jankovic vs. Zvonareva remains a high-stakes duel.
"I'm more positive after this match, definitely than after the first match," offered Kuznetsova, who lost to Zvonareva in straight sets on Tuesday and has now failed to progress past the round robin stage at four Tour Championships. "I think I had many chances. First set, second set. But I played better, and this is the most important thing. I think I missed some determination in the important moments, but I'll work on it."