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Italian Open
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Jankovic cruises to Rome victory

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic strolled past world number three Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5 6-1 to claim the Italian Open in Rome.

The 22-year-old Serbian took advantage of her Russian opponent's string of unforced errors that saw her lose eight of her 10 service games.

After trading breaks in the first and second sets, Jankovic won the final five games to close out the match.

The title was Jankovic's third of 2007 and her second on clay following her victory in South Carolina last month.

The third-seeded Jankovic broke to take a 4-2 lead in the first set, but then committed two double faults to let Kuznetsova break back and even the score at 4-4.

It's an unbelievable win for me. I've got better and better through the week

Jelena Jankovic

A series of baseline errors by the second-seeded Kuznetsova let Jankovic restore her lead and the Serb held to close out the set.

Jankovic's speed around the court forced Kuznetsova to play more balls than she would have wanted in several long rallies.

"It's an unbelievable win for me. I've got better and better through the week," said Jankovic.

"I moved so well - that was the key to the match. She's such a powerful player and I was just trying to cover as many of her balls as possible. I really didn't expect to win."

Venezuela's Milagros Sequera won her first WTA Tour title when she beat Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak 6-1 6-3 to claim the Grand Prix SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco.

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Serena Falls to Schnyder in Rome Thriller; Jankovic Rolls




ROME, Italy - After having a somewhat disappointing start to her year, batting an even 9-9 in her first nine tournaments, she picked her game up last week in Berlin, reaching the quarterfinals on the strength of three wins, including against Swiss compatriot Martina Hingis. This week she has gone one step further, however, and has taken out another of the greats to get there; Patty Schnyder won a quarterfinal thriller over Serena Williams on Friday to reach the semifinals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.

Schnyder, the No.14 seed at the Tier I event, came out on fire, winning the opening set easily in just 29 minutes, 6-3, and racing out to a 2-0 lead in the second. But the No.8-seeded Williams came back in a hurry, reeling off six straight games, none of which even went to deuce, to grab that second set from underneath her, 6-2.

"I completely lost it," Schnyder commented on the second set turnaround. "It's something that you can't really explain because as a player like me with so many years on the Tour, you don't want it to happen... but it still happens to everyone."

"I was playing a little better and she was playing a bit worse at that point," said Williams. "Naturally I thought I was going to go on and win, but comfortably or not, I didn't think about that. I just thought about winning points."

The 59-minute third set was a serving display, as both players held serve until the all-important tie-break. Schnyder built a 5-2 lead that was quickly cut down by the resilient Williams, but the comeback didn't last long, as the crafty Swiss clinched the one-hour, 57-minute match with two aggressive points, 63 26 76(5).

"I really felt a lot of pressure because she was out there fighting; not just going for the shots but she really wanted to win," Schnyder said. "I think we played at a really high level in that third set. We were both serving well and not missing easy shots. They were difficult conditions but somehow I managed to handle them."

"I just didn't make the shots I was supposed to make," Williams stated. "I made too many unforced errors today, probably about 50, which is considerably good to get to 7-6 in the third. I was very inconsistent and I just didn't play well today."

But the American, who won two rounds to reach the quarters, still holds a positive outlook going into Roland Garros.

"It was a nice couple rounds," she said. "It's good to get here on the red clay and get some good matches and lots of long points under your belt. Not winning today is going to end up working well; I get to do more work now to be even more fit."
 
This was Schnyder's second win in eight career match-ups against Williams. Her only previous win came in their only other clay encounter, at
Charleston in 2002.

"Some days you can do it then others you lose, especially with such a champion like Serena," Schnyder added. "I'm just extremely happy that I could do it again because she's just the champion to beat this year."

And this being her second turnaround week after a season that has seen her drop out of the Top 10 and nearly the Top 20, Schnyder's confidence is revived.

"I'm really happy after such a slow start to the year; sometimes, you need a little breakthrough and definitely last week I played good matches. But this is for sure a breakthrough for me. I just don't want to let my level of play or confidence drop again. I just want to keep it up and see what's going to happen this year."

Awaiting Schnyder in the semifinals will be another player who is on fire this year, No.3 seed Jelena Jankovic, who crushed No.10 seed Elena Dementieva, 62 61.

"She is playing with so much confidence," added Schnyder on her next opponent. "Her ranking just goes up and up - and she's still motivated to go higher and play every week. I'll definitely need to play my best to win."

Battling in the other semi are Svetlana Kuznetsova and Daniela Hantuchova. On Friday, No.2 seed Kuznetsova dismissed No.6-seeded Dinara Safina, 61 63, while No.9 seed Hantuchova got past non-seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, 76(8) 75.

"I've played Daniela twice this year; I beat her once and lost to her once," stated Kuznetsova. "It's going to be a tough match. But I don't want to think about her. I want to concentrate on myself. If I play well I have chances against everybody."

Hantuchova hopes to recover from the marathon two-hour, 25-minute victory on Friday night. She had all sorts of chances to close the first set out more quickly, having dominated the early goings en route to a 4-1 lead then holding her first set points at 6-5 and 7-6 in the tie-break. She saved a set point against her when she trailed 8-7 in the tie-break, but reeled off three straight points. She rallied back from a 3-1 deficit in the second set to go up 5-3, and had three match points in that game, but again allowed the Spaniard back in, winning four games later.

The three remaining doubles quarterfinals were also played on Friday, the most notable one coming earlier in the day, as No.2 seeds and reigning Australian Open champions Cara Black and Liezel Huber downed unseeded Italians Karin Knapp and Romina Oprandi, 57 62 104. Both doubles semis will take the court Saturday in the Italian capital. (WTA)


ITALIAN OPEN: Hantuchova rallies past French qualifier

ROME: Ninth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova rallied to beat French qualifier Aravane Rezai 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 Monday in the first round of the Italian Open.

“In the first set I think I was tight, but that’s normal in the first round,” said Hantuchova, who has never advanced past the third round in six previous appearances in Rome. Other seeds advancing were No. 11 Shahar Peer of Israel, who was leading 6-0, 2-0 when Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska retired due to an injury to her right wrist, and 10th-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia, who dispatched Italy’s Maria Elena Camerin 6-1, 6-2. Also, Ai Sugiyama beat Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 5-7, 7-5; Meghann Shaughnessy of the United States eliminated Emilie Loit 6-3, 6-2; Ukraine’s Alona Bondarenko outlasted Chinese Sun Tiantian 6-7 (6) 7-5, 6-2; and lucky loser Michaella Krajicek defeated Olga Poutchkova 6-1, 6-2.

In a matchup of the youngest and oldest players in the draw, 16-year-old Austrian qualifier Tamira Paszek rallied past 34-year-old Nicole Pratt 6-7 (1), 6-0, 6-2. The 42nd-ranked Kirilenko recovered from an early break in the final set and staved off three match points the first time Sugiyama served for the match at 5-4. But the more experienced Sugiyama – who made only six unforced errors – broke back and converted her first match point the next time she served. “I just had to hang in and be patient. Luckily, I got through,” said Sugiyama, a former top-10 player. The top eight seeded players have byes in the first round.

Two-time Rome champion Amelie Mauresmo is top-seeded at the Italian Open since top-ranked Justine Henin did not enter and No. 2 Maria Sharapova withdrew with a right shoulder injury. Defending champion Martina Hingis pulled out with hip and back injuries. ap

Hantuchova stumbles to Rome win

Daniela Hantuchova

Daniela Hantuchova avoided an early exit from her second tournament in a row, coming from behind to beat Aravane Rezai 4-6 6-1 6-2 at the Italian Open.

The ninth seed, beaten in round one of the German Open last week, struggled before advancing to round two to face Sybille Bammer or Gisela Dulko.

With the top eight seeds having first round byes Hantuchova is the top-ranked player in action on the opening day.

After Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova pulled out Amelie Mauresmo is top seed.

The 27-year-old has won the event twice before but is struggling for form this year after a long lay-off with appendicitis.

Elsewhere, Ai Sugiyama beat Maria Kirilenko 6-4 5-7 7-5, Meghann Shaugnessy beat Emilie Loit 6-3 6-2 and lucky loser Michaella Krajicek saw off Olga Poutchkova 6-1 6-2.

The tournament's youngest player, 16-year-old Tamira Paszek beat its oldest, 34-year-old Nicole Pratt 6-7 (1-7) 6-0 6-2.

And tenth seed Elena Dementieva eased into round two with a 6-1 6-2 win over Italy's Maria Elena Camerin.


Top seed Mauresmo beaten in Rome

Amelie Mauresmo

Amelie Mauresmo's French Open preparations took a knock when she lost 7-5 6-7 7-6 to Samantha Stosur in round two of the Italian Open in Rome.

The top seed was playing her second tournament since appendix surgery and twice failed to take match points.

"I guess I didn't keep the intensity the way I should have," she said.

"I have nothing much to say but that I'm just disappointed, and obviously I guess the lack of matches showed a little bit at that moment."

Stosur had not even won a set in their previous five meetings but kept her head as Mauresmo missed match points in the ninth and 13th games of the deciding set.

Mauresmo saved a Stosur match point herself, before Stosur successfully challenged a call on a Mauresmo return, which turned out to be long.

That set up Stosur's second match point, which was converted when Mauresmo put a forehand return out.

"It went game-for-game until the third set, I had to keep fighting, try my best and see," said Stosur. "I pulled it out in the tiebreaker."

Second seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and third seed Jelena Jankovic eased through, with straight-sets wins over Mara Santangelo and Tamira Paszek respectively.

Last year's runner-up Dinara Safina reached round three after a bizarre start to her game with Kaia Kanepi.

There were 10 breaks of serve in the first 11 games before Safina sealed a 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 win.

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Italian Open begins without Sharapova, Hingis

ROME -- In a matchup of the draw's youngest and oldest players, 16-year-old Austrian qualifier Tamira Paszek rallied past 34-year-old Nicole Pratt 6-7 (1), 6-0, 6-2 on Monday in the first round of the Italian Open.

Other seeds advancing were No. 11 Shahar Peer of Israel, who was leading 6-0, 2-0 when Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska retired because of a right wrist injury, and 10th-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia, who beat Italy's Maria Elena Camerin 6-1, 6-2.

Also, Ai Sugiyama defeated Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 5-7, 7-5; Meghann Shaughnessy eliminated Emilie Loit 6-3, 6-2; and Russian qualifier Galina Voskoboeva beat wild card Alberta Brianti 6-2, 6-3.

Ninth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova rallied to beat French qualifier Aravane Rezai 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

"In the first set I think I was tight, but that's normal in the first round," said Hantuchova, who has never advanced past the third round in six previous appearances in Rome.

The top eight seeded players have byes in the first round.

Two-time Rome champion Amelie Mauresmo is seeded first because top-ranked Justine Henin did not enter the event. Maria Sharapova, ranked No. 2, withdrew because of a right shoulder injury. Defending champion Martina Hingis pulled out with hip and back injuries.

The 42nd-ranked Kirilenko recovered from an early break in the final set and staved off three match points the first time Sugiyama served for the match at 5-4. But the more experienced Sugiyama -- who made only six unforced errors -- broke back and converted her first match point the next time she served.

"I just had to hang in and be patient, Sugiyama said. "Luckily I got through."

Defending champion Martina Hingis pulled out with hip and back injuries.