Jankovic advances at East West

July 24, 2008 08:02 AM

CARSON, Calif. (AP) -- Jelena Jankovic opened her bid to gain the No. 1 ranking with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over American Vania King in the East West Bank Classic on Wednesday night.

Jelena Jankovic
The top-seeded Serbian could knock countrywoman Ana Ivanovic from the top spot by winning the tournament, her first since injuring her right knee at Wimbledon.

King pressed Jankovic throughout the first set before the Serb took control in the second.

"My leg felt fine, I didn't have any pain," Jankovic said. "I felt a little bit slow when I was moving around, not so explosive like I'm used to. It's just a matter of feeling more comfortable."

The injury withdrawals of Serena and Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Svetlana Kuznetsova have taken much of the luster off this year's tournament, and Jankovic noticed.

"It's really unfortunate this tournament doesn't have many people," she said. "The stadium is quite empty which is unusual because most of our tournaments are a full house."

The lack of fans made Jankovic's cheering section -- local Serbs sporting "JJ's Crew" T-shirts -- stand out.

"I'm obviously not 100 percent and I'm not playing my best tennis, but little by little, I will try to do it, especially for the big tournaments," said Jankovic, who is scheduled to play in the Beijing Olympics. "Hopefully, I will keep getting better."

Bethanie Mattek, who has improved her ranking almost 100 places since early April, took another step forward with a 6-4, 6-0 victory against 11th-seeded Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic.

Bethanie Mattek
The 23-year-old Mattek, from Miami, was 153rd in the WTA Tour rankings on April 7 after losing six of seven matches to open the season. But she made it to the semifinals of a grass-court tournament in England before losing to Serena Williams in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, moving her into 59th place entering this $600,000, 56-player event.

Mattek's win over Vaidisova was her ninth in 11 matches, including a 6-3, 6-0 win over Vaidisova in England. Mattek's third-round opponent Thursday will be Olga Govortsova of Belarus, who upset No. 6 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia on Tuesday.

Qualifier Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia rallied to upset No. 15 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Fourth-seeded Dinara Safina of Russia also moved into the third round, beating Shuai Peng of China 6-2, 6-2. Eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, No. 9 Nadia Petrova of Russia, No. 10 Flavia Pennetta of Italy and No. 14 Sybille Bammer of Austria also advanced.

However, seventh-seeded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland was another upset victim, losing to Ai Sugiyama 6-4, 7-5; and 122nd-ranked Meng Yuan of China eliminated No. 16 Sania Mirza of India, 6-4, 6-3.

Mattek said her turnaround has been primarily due to being physically fit and able to play more often and more consistently.

"I attribute a lot of it to my fitness level," she said. "I think I'm in the best shape of my career right now. I've played a lot of matches and that's made me mentally tough.

"I've been able to fight my way through matches. I've stayed a lot healthier this year. Last year I'd win a match 7-6 in the third [set] and then be dead for the next match. Plus when you're playing the top girls week in and week out you get a feel for their game. It's a lot faster, but you get used to that pace. I've had a great couple of months."