Charming Jankovic Wins in Charleston

Jelena Jankovic beat Dinara Safina to win her third and biggest Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title at the Family Circle Cup.

Published April 15, 2007 12:00

Charming Jankovic Wins in Charleston
Jelena Jankovic

CHARLESTON, SC, USA - One year ago she was in the midst of a 10-match losing streak and working her way down the rankings. It's funny how the wind can change direction at the drop of a hat, however; on an incredibly blistery Sunday afternoon in Charleston, Jelena Jankovic continued her awesome career turnaround and climb up the Top 10 with her third and biggest Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title at the Family Circle Cup.

Sunday's final was somewhat anticlimactic, considering Jankovic's marathon semifinal against an unseeded Venus Williams, which lasted for more than two and a half hours, ending with the No.2-seeded Serb winning, 36 63 76(5). No.4 seed Dinara Safina provided little resistance in the windy final, going down in straight sets, 62 62.

"I had an awesome week here," Jankovic said. "Especially beating Venus. Today in the final it was a bit of a different story because of the weather. It was really windy and tough circumstances, but I gave my best, and I'm the champion. I'm so happy I won this title. It's a really amazing feeling."

Safina came out strong in the early stages of both sets, going up 2-1 in the first then 2-0 in the second, but every time Jankovic retaliated with a string of easy games, none of which even went to deuce. It was over in an hour and 11 minutes.

"It was not my day," Safina said. "I was struggling with the weather, but it was the same for her, so I think she was able to handle it better than me. I was giving away too many free points. With this weather you have to make someone play."

"She was having a difficult time, but I was also; it's not easy playing in this kind of weather, but there is nothing you can do about it," Jankovic added. "Especially when we were serving. I was just trying to stay focused and positive out there."

By virtue of reaching the final, Safina will return to the Top 10 on Monday, at No.10. She was No.10 for four weeks last year and three more in January. With a title here she could have risen to No.9, but she was still pleased with her week.

"I'm definitely happy," the Russian said. "I wouldn't have expected to reach the finals. If somebody told me I was going to be in the final I would shake his hand and say 'I'll give you half of my prize money.' Sometimes it just goes your way."

For Jankovic, the title win represents another giant step in her career turnaround. She was a first round loser at this event last season then fell out of the Top 30, but she was one of the hottest players of the year thereafter; she hasn't changed a thing in 2007, claiming Auckland in January, cracking the Top 10 soon after and, with her second title of the year here, moving up to No.7 on Monday.

"You see what I mean by the wind?" Jankovic joked. "Some things are meant to happen for a reason. Maybe if those things didn't happen I wouldn't be here. That period made me a lot stronger and now I realize some things and values. Now, I appreciate my results a little more; I appreciate things a lot more than before."

One of the things the 22-year-old will appreciate when she returns to defend her trophy next year is a banner of her among former champions at the event, which include tennis legends Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario, as well as a smattering of active players like Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Mary Pierce and Justine Henin.

"I'm the new poster girl," Jankovic said. "Next year when I come here, hopefully I'll see my picture up there. It's a good feeling!"

The draw was rocked on Tuesday as Nicole Vaidisova and Serena Williams both made early exits; the No.1-seeded Vaidisova dropped her opener to fellow teen Michaella Krajicek, while a No.3-seeded Williams was forced to retire from her match injured. Wednesday saw Patty Schnyder, one of Charleston's best players in years past, continue her disappointing season with an opening round loss to China's Peng Shuai, who recently acquired ATP legend Michael Chang as her coach. The later rounds saw two young stars go home early due to injury, with Amelia Island champion Tatiana Golovin retiring from her quarterfinal and Vera Zvonareva stopping during her semifinal, both against Safina.

The doubles final was an all-Chinese affair, with two-time Grand Slam champions Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, the No.3 seeds, beating non-seeds Peng and Sun Tiantian, 75 60. It was the ninth title for the Yan-Zheng combo, and first this year; they won two in 2005 and six in 2006, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

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