Safina reaches East West final

July 27, 2008 02:40 AM

CARSON, Calif. (AP)—Dinara Safina beat Jelena Jankovic 7-6 (3), 6-1 Saturday night to reach the championship of the East West Bank Classic and deny Jankovic the world’s top ranking.

Safina will face Flavia Pennetta in the final round. Pennetta was a 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 winner over unseeded American Bethanie Mattek in Saturday’s other semifinal.

Jankovic, of Serbia, could have replaced countrywoman Ana Ivanovic at No. 1.

“Hopefully, my time will come,” Jankovic said. “It’s not the end of the world.”

Jankovic, who is recovering from a torn knee she suffered at Wimbledon, said she had only four days of practice before opening play in Carson.

“Just to be able to play this tournament for me was very exciting because I was supposed to be out for quite a long time,” she said.

“She was the better player today,” Jankovic said. “I had some chances. I played a bad tiebreaker. I made a lot of errors and let some opportunities go. In the second set, for some reason I couldn’t run anymore. I was tired and my legs were shaking. I didn’t have the power to continue.”

Safina, who will move from No. 9 to No. 8 in the WTA Tour rankings regardless of how she does in the final, will be looking for her second title of the year and seventh overall. This will be her fourth final in her past five events, during which she has won 22 of 24 matches.

Pennetta, a 26-year-old Italian, is 0-3 in her career against both Jankovic and Safina.

She will move from No. 21 to at least No. 16 in next week’s WTA rankings after playing her way into her first final at the Tier II level. Pennetta has won six titles and played in 23 other semifinals, all at the Tier III level.

Pennetta needed treatment for blisters on her left foot after each of the first two sets.

She found herself in trouble early against Mattek, facing at least one break point in every service game in the opening set and losing serve twice.

Pennetta lost serve in the first game of the second set, too. But she broke Mattek in the second game and took control by fighting off three break points to hold serve, then using a break and a hold for a 4-1 lead.

The third set of the nearly three-hour match was one of tenuous holds and missed opportunities until finally, on her third match point on Mattek’s serve, Pennetta laced a backhand crosscourt winner.

“It was completely heart,” she said. “It was not a great match, for sure. I didn’t play very good. It’s very important to win when you don’t play your best.”