Jankovic Beats Zvonareva for Auckland Title
Published January 06, 2007 12:00
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Jelena Jankovic had one of the biggest turnaround seasons in 2006, shrugging off a 10-match losing streak and ending up one of the hottest players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in the second half of the year. The Serb picked up where she left off this past week, claiming her second career title at the ASB Classic with a championship victory over Vera Zvonareva.
Jankovic, seeded No.1 at the $145,000 event, did not drop a set en route to the final but was pushed to the limit by the No.5-seeded Zvonareva, clinching a 76(9) 57 63 victory in two hours, 43 minutes.
The two battled most fiercely in the first set, trading breaks twice before ending up in a tense tie-break. Jankovic squandered two set points at 6-5 and 7-6 before Zvonareva had two of her own, 8-7 and 9-8. It was third time lucky for Jankovic, who won the extremely even opener in which both women earned 48 points.
The second set was just as even in terms of points won (44-44), but Zvonareva was the one who came through in the end, breaking for 6-5 then serving it out.
After Jankovic surged ahead 4-1 in the third, it seemed Zvonareva was on her way to evening things up, closing to 4-3 and holding points to make it 4-4; but that opportunity was snatched away by the Serb, who broke for 5-3 and had no problems serving it out. It was her second win in four matches with the Russian.
"I came, I saw, I conquered," said Jankovic, who added the Auckland title to her lone prior title, at Budapest in 2004. "I was expecting a tough match but it was really, really tough. We were out there hitting the ball as hard as we could for almost three hours; believe me, it was not easy. Vera played really well, and it was an unbelievable match and I think the crowd really enjoyed it."
In 2006, Jankovic rebounded from a 1-10 start to finish 45-27, reaching one final and an abundance of semifinals (including the US Open) and quarterfinals. At one point in the spring she nearly dipped outside the Top 40 but worked her way up to No.12 by year's end. After some heavy off-court work and virtually no ranking points to defend until the clay court season, she feels ready to go even higher.
"I worked really hard in my off-season, and I think the work has paid off. I think I can beat anybody and I showed I can play with the best. The win will give me more confidence for the rest of the season. It is nice to start the year with a title."
Jankovic was one of four Top 20 players who started at the ASB Classic, a record for the tournament. Three fell prior to the quarterfinals - Anastasia Myskina was a first round upset victim, while Daniela Hantuchova and defending champion Marion Bartoli were ousted in the second round.
Zvonareva was the fifth-highest ranked player in the draw and also performed impressively all week. It was her 10th career final, and she is now 5-5 in those.
It was a good week for top seeds, as the No.1 doubles team in the draw, Janette Husarova and Paola Suárez, captured the doubles title, with a 60 62 drubbing of surprise unseeded finalists Hsieh Su-Wei and Shikha Uberoi. It was Husarova's 22nd career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour doubles title, and Suárez's 43rd.