Mauresmo battles past Jankovic in China Open semifinals

Sep 23, 2006 - 8:07 PM BEIJING (Ticker) - Despite her recent surge, Jelena Jankovic still cannot beat Amelie Mauresmo.

The world's top-ranked player, Mauresmo held off a late charge by the Serbian Jankovic with a 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3) victory in Saturday's semifinals of the China Open.

Beating the sixth-seeded Jankovic for the fourth time in as many meetings, Mauresmo advanced to her sixth final of the year. It is the first final since Wimbledon for the Frenchwoman, who has won four titles this season, including a pair of Grand Slams.

Mauresmo, who had dropped just one set in the previous three meetings with Jankovic, appeared as if she would roll past the 21-year-old once again after capturing the opening set easily.

Jankovic, who was coming off a semifinal appearance at the U.S. Open for her best showing in a Grand Slam, rallied back to grab the second, but Mauresmo proved just a little better in the third-set tiebreak.

"She played well in this summer," said Mauresmo of her opponent. "I won the first set easily, but she played great in the second. It was surprising."

Jankovic, who finished with six breaks of Mauresmo's serve, was just as surprised to have pushed Mauresmo to a decisive set.

"I think she should've won in two sets today," Jankovic said. "In the second set, there was a time when I started playing better, and found my rhythm. My serve was terrible, especially when I was tired. I was so tired that I almost collapsed."

Mauresmo will face second-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final of this $600,000 Tier II event.

Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion, advanced to her second straight final by routing local favorite Shuai Peng, 6-0, 6-2.

Kuznetsova broke Peng six times en route to capturing her seven consecutive match.

"I played smart today," Kuznetsova said. "Peng didn't play well. I think she is a little bit tired, but I am physically good. In the first set, I tried to make her move, and made some drop shots."

Coming off a title in Bali last week, Kuznetsova is in search of her third singles crown of the year. The last time the Russian reached consecutive finals was in 2004, when she followed up her only Grand Slam title with her second of three wins in Bali.

Although Mauresmo leads the all-time series 4-2, Kuznetsova has won the last two meetings, including a semifinal match at Miami in April.

"It will be tough, but it's good to play against top players," Kuznetsova said. "(Mauresmo) plays with variety of tennis; it is interesting to play against her."

"She is a good player," Mauresmo said of Kuznetsova. "She plays defense well, she is very aggressive and she serves pretty well. She performed well in Bali and China Open this week. It will be tough tomorrow."

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