Jankovic advances to semifinals

July 26, 2008 10:43 AM
CARSON, Calif. (AP) _Top-seeded Jelena Jankovic took another step toward a possible No. 1 ranking on the WTA Tour by beating ninth-seeded Nadia Petrova 7-5, 6-4 on Friday night to advance to the semifinals of the East West Bank Classic.

Jankovic, 23, of Serbia, can take the top spot in the rankings from countrywoman Ana Ivanovic if she wins this $600,000 hardcourt event.

Next up is No. 4 Dinara Safina in Saturday night's semifinal. Safina, of Russia, was a 6-3, 6-1 winner over No. 8 Victoria Azarenk, of Belarus.

In the other quarterfinals, Italy's Flavia Pennetta was a 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-1 winner over No. 14 Sybille Bammer, of Austria, and Bethanie Mattek rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the second set to beat Meng Yuan, of China, 6-2, 7-5, in a matchup of unseeded players.

Jankovic overcame an early service break in both sets against Petrova.

``I did play the big points well. At the important times I was really able to hang in there and hit my spots,'' Jankovic said, adding she wasn't bothered by the torn meniscus in her left knee, any injury that happened at Wimbledon.

``There were no problems whatsoever, no pain,'' she said.

Petrova, who missed several makeable volleys, said Jankovic was much improved since their last meeting in 2007.

``Her serve is better and she's playing faster. Before she was just running on the baseline,'' said Petrova, who trails 5-2 in their rivalry. ``Now she's being more aggressive and stepping in and taking the ball early. That's why she's No. 2.''

Petrova, of Russia, said she felt she played ``quite well'' aside from mechanical problems on her second serves and attributed the missed volleys to trying to be ``too fine.''

Safina, the younger sister of former U.S. Open champion and top-ranked Marat Safin, said her easy win over Azarenka was ``just a perfect match for me. My coach (Zeljko Krajan) said it was the best match I ever played. Everything worked.''

Indeed, the only flaw in the second set came in the fourth game, which Safina lost after Azarenka had left the court briefly with an abdominal muscle injury.

``That wasn't me on the court for about five seconds. Then I was back,'' she said with a smile.

The dominating performance was surprising in that until arriving here Safina hadn't played since losing in the third round at Wimbledon, and that was her only outing since reaching the French Open final.

``I've been working really hard,'' she said. ``Maybe it's because I'm rested and fresh in my mind.''