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Saturday, May 19, 2007
Jankovic, Kuznetsova reach Italian Open final

Associated Press

ROME -- Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Jankovic will play for the Italian Open title, and apart from Justine Henin nobody on the tour is playing as sharply as those two.

Kuznetsova, seeded second, beat Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 6-2 Saturday. Jankovic, seeded third, routed Patty Schnyder 6-1, 6-3 in the other semifinal of this clay-court warmup for the French Open, which begins next weekend.

"I feel really comfortable here," Kuznetsova said. "I have the game on clay and I've showed it the past three weeks.

Kuznetsova is ranked a career-high No. 3 this week following her runner-up finish in last week's German Open and a semifinal appearance in Warsaw, Poland, the week before.

Jankovic is also at a career high in the rankings -- No. 5 -- and has not dropped a set this week. The Serb won a clay-court title in Charleston, S.C., last month and lost to Henin in Warsaw and Berlin.

"She moves incredibly well on clay. Tomorrow is going to be a tough match," Kuznetsova said. "But I think I have the game to win."

Kuznetsova was the runner-up to Henin at last year's French Open.

"This year I can see how I can hurt other players a lot on clay courts," Kuznetsova said. "I can play with a lot of spin. I really understand the game much more this year."

Kuznetsova has defeated Jankovic in two of their three matches. Jankovic, however, beat her in three sets at last year's U.S. Open.

"I'm just going to concentrate on myself and try to put my serves in," Jankovic said.

Kuznetsova used her speed to run down Hantuchova's angled shots and flattened her backhand for a series of winners. Hantuchova beat Anabel Medina Garrigues in a long two-setter that ended late Friday and did not appear to have fully recovered.

"I know she likes hard courts better and it takes some time to get used to the clay," Kuznetsova said.

Kuznetsova broke to go up 2-1 in the first and maintained the lead for the rest of the set. After trading breaks early in the second set, Kuznetsova won the final games.

Schnyder upset Serena Williams in a third-set tiebreaker Friday and appeared out of energy in her semifinal. She was late arriving to the ball, missed routine groundstrokes and committed double-faults.

"She played unbelievably yesterday and it's really hard to play two days in a row like she did," Jankovic said.

Schnyder, who has a cold, never held serve.

"I couldn't breathe," she said. "I had trouble in the long rallies."

Jankovic's only problem came when she served for the match and had trouble with her serve.

"It was terrible. I was just a little bit tight," Jankovic said. "It happens to everybody. I just had to hang in there."