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Back In The Mix: Jankovic Stumps Safina in Cincy Final

img_0724Since surrendering the number one ranking, Serb Jelena Jankovic’s game has been careening backward.  But, today, the 2008 U.S Open finalist showed that she will be a contender in New York.  In the finals of Western & Southern Financial Group Open, a premier hardcourt tune up, Jankovic beat world number one Dinara Safina 6-4, 6-2 to pick up her second title of the year.

After Safina held serve, a double fault gave her a break point.  However, Jankovic yanked this opportunity away and managed to keep serve.  Then,  Jelena broke Safina at love for a 3-1 advantage which altered the complexion of the match.  By effectively using her backhand, Jelena baited Safina into errors particularly on the forehand side and carried the set.

In the second, Safina sent a backhand long to hand Jankovic double break point.  Jelena capitalized when Dinara double faulted.  After a love service game, Jankovic forced two backhand errors from Safina to widen her lead by a double break at 3-0.  As a result of a double fault and backhand mistake by Jankovic, Safina regained one of the breaks.  The next game, despite four double faults by Dinara, two of which were break points, Jelena was unable to capitalize.  This potential swing in momentum was weathered, as Jankovic won her service game for a 4-2 margin. Subsequently, with aggressive returns and by deconstructing Safina’s forehand, Jankovic earned triple break point.  After securing a 5-2 lead, Jankovic served cleanly to claim her biggest trophy of 2009.

In doubles, top seed Liezel Huber and Cara Black prevailed over Nuria Llagostera Vives and  Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in three sets to gather their fifth title this season.

For Safina, finals have been a struggle in 2009.  The Russian is now 3 of 8 including two devastating losses at the French and Australian Opens.  This week marked Belgian Kim Clijsters’ return to the WTA tour.  Safina ended Clijsters’ brilliant run at the quarterfinals.  Both Venus and Serena Williams went out in the third round. With three different winners on the U.S. Open Olympus series, it’s difficult to tease out a frontrunner  for the trophy at Flushing Meadows.

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