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Kuznetsova eliminates Jankovic in quarterfinals

by Andrew Mckirdy

Jelena Jankovic’s bid to reclaim the world No. 1 ranking ended Friday when she joined Olympic champion Elena Dementieva in being bundled out at the quarterfinals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open.

Jankovic, who would have snatched the top spot from Serena Williams with a win this week at Tokyo’s Ariake Colosseum, put in an error-strewn performance as she crashed out to Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, giving up seven breaks over the course of the match.

Former U.S. Open champion Kuznetsova was also guilty of failing to make her serves count, but held her nerve to claim a 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 win and set up a semifinal clash with Slovenian qualifier Katarina Srebotnik, who upset world No. 4 Dementieva in straight sets later in the day.

Kuznetsova credited the win to a change in attitude after a run of four straight games went against service for both players in the third set.

“I was very happy with my performance and the way I was attacking,” she said. “She was double-faulting on the important points so I had to be aggressive. In the third set I was losing my serve all the time, and I thought I had to move into the net.

“I had the confidence to do this, and as we say in Russia, ‘If you don’t take risks, you don’t drink champagne.’ “

Jankovic, who lost her first service game to love and threw away the decisive break in the second set on a double fault, admitted her mistakes but insisted she had plenty more chances to regain the No. 1 spot she held for one week in August.

“I had so many opportunities today. I was a little bit unlucky at times and a couple of important points didn’t go my way,” she said.

“Overall it was a tough match for me, and there was a lot of hard hitting and running. It was very close and unfortunately it went her way.

“I still have a lot of tournaments before the end of the year. It’s not important to be No. 1 at the moment but I would like to finish No. 1 at the end of the year. That is the most important thing.”

Jankovic suggested the conditions, with the center court roof closed due to rain, did nothing to help her game.

“In the third set I made a lot of double faults, and maybe I was tired,” she said.

“I was fighting to serve better but it was hot and humid, and it was not easy to be out there. That was my biggest mistake, but what can you do? I just have to keep going and work harder.”

Dementieva also struggled to find form in her match against Srebotnik, losing the first set then hurling her racket into the net and smashing it to the ground after conceding a break early in the second.

Screaming at herself in frustration, the world No. 4 pulled herself back into contention before finally succumbing 3-6, 4-6 to the Slovenian’s dynamic power game.

“It is a big win for me,” Srebotnik said. “Elena won a gold medal and I knew she was one of the hot players at the moment, so to beat her is a big deal for me.

“I tried to stay calm but it was easy because I was really playing well. Normally she holds her emotions, so I knew when she threw her racket that I was getting under her skin. That was a sign for me that I was doing well.”

In Friday’s other quarterfinals, Nadia Petrova, who shocked world No. 3 Ana Ivanovic on Thursday, beat Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-0 to advance to a semifinal matchup against world No. 5 Dinara Safina, who claimed a hard-fought victory over Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2.