/ 6 September 2008

Jankovic to face Serena Williams in final

World number two Jelena Jankovic advanced to her first grand-slam final by defeating Elena Dementieva 6-4, 6-4 at the US Open on Saturday, setting up a showdown with two-time winner Serena Williams.

”I have tears in my eyes,” said an emotional Jankovic. ”I have played in five semifinals and to be in the final for first time in a grand slam is unbelievable. I’m thrilled.”

Jankovic had to rally in both sets of the semifinal on a windy Friday afternoon in front of a crowd of 22 892 at the main Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Eight-time grand-slam winner Williams reached her first US Open final in six years, storming past Russian Dinara Safina 6-3, 6-2 in just 88 minutes.

”I am finally back in the finals,” Williams said. ”An American back in the finals. I am really excited.”

The final is scheduled for Saturday night but weather forecasters are predicting rain all day as the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna move through the New York area. If that happens, the final will be moved to Sunday night.

Not only will Jankovic and Williams be gunning for the $1,5-million in first-place prize money, but the winner will also surpass Serbian Ana Ivanovic as world number one.

Jankovic finished off her semifinal by breaking Dementieva for the fifth time in the set, winning it on the second match point when the Russian hit the final ball long.

”It was windy but I really tried to fight,” said Jankovic, adding that she had to adjust to hitting into a headwind. ”It was hard for both of us. Especially from one side the wind was very strong. You keep hitting as hard as you can and the ball doesn’t go anywhere.

”From the other side you hit the ball and it flies. It was tough but it was the same conditions for both players.”

Serbia’s Jankovic won 63% of her first serve points and made just 22 unforced errors in the one-hour, 34-minute match.

It has taken her 20 career grand-slam tournaments to get to the final.

”I wanted to go out there and from the first point be focused,” Jankovic said. ”I wanted to come out with a game plan and know what I have to do to win and just fight. I knew I could do it and that is what matters.”

Once again, Russian fifth seed Dementieva seemed tormented by her weak second serve. She squandered numerous opportunities, finishing with six double faults and 42 unforced errors.

She posted her final double fault in the last game where she won just one point when the chair umpire refused to let Jankovic challenge a ball the Serbian thought was long.

”I made too many unforced errors and she was trying to put everything in. I tried to go for the winners and couldn’t close the point. I couldn’t make it,” said Dementieva.

Jankovic, a semifinalist at the French Open in June, has won just one title in 2008. That came at the Italian Open, where she defeated Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova en route to the final.

She said it was rare for her to play a grand slam without being hurt.

”This has been first grand slam I don’t have issues bothering me,” said Jankovic. ”Knock on wood. For the first time this year in a grand slam I am healthy. It is a miracle for me to be healthy.”

Williams kept her game plan simple on Friday, converting five of 10 break-point opportunities and making just 21 unforced errors.

At one point in the match, Safina had her serve broken four times in a row.

She made 41 unforced errors and converted only two of six break-point opportunities in the 88-minute match.

”I was behaving like a spoiled girl on the court and I can’t do this in a semifinal of a grand slam,” Safina said. ”I have to get better. She [Williams] behaved like a champion. She was there and fighting and was fighting with me and I was fighting with everything around except her.”

Serena rallied from having her serve broken on her opening game of the match to take the first set by winning the final three games. — Sapa-AFP