Safina storms back; Jankovic's Roman empire falls

RomeĀ  - Top seed Dinara Safina showed her class with a thunderous final-set whitewash Thursday to blow into the semi-finals of the Rome International over potential Spanish spoiler Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.

The 2006 finalist and current world number one, who lost the Foro Italico final three years ago to Martina Hingis, will face 1999 champion Venus Williams, who defeated Polish 10th seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-2.

Safina needed to recover in a second consecutive match to go through, saving 11 of 15 break points while breaking her opponent seven times in a two-and-a-quarter-hour struggle.

The Russian improved to 21-6 this season as she seeks her first 2009 trophy after four in 2008.

The Rome reign of Jelena Jankovic ended as the Serb was cut off in her bid to lift a third straight title at the Foro Italico. The third seed crashed out to Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) in their quarter-final.

On Friday, Kuznetsova will face Miami champion Victoria Azarenka, the Belarus sixth seed who put out Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.

The smiling Jankovic was not overly dismayed as she packed her bags for the weekend start in Spain of the new Madrid Masters on clay. "It's great, because I got to play some matches on clay," she said after her Foro Italico win streak ended at a dozen victories since 2007.

"I won the tournament in Marbella and won two matches in Spain for Fed Cup and then played some matches as well in Stuttgart and here. I think I'm doing well for the preparation for the French Open, which is my main goal."

But last season's year-end number one admitted that something is missing.

"I wanted to win here for three times in a row - and unfortunately didn't happen for me. But it's not the end of world. All I care is to enjoy my tennis and to be happy," Jankovic said. "This is the way it goes. Somebody has to lose, and today it was me."

Kuznetsova won in 1 hour, 38 minutes, breaking Jankovic four times.

"She was playing very good tennis out there, hitting the ball very, very well with a lot of power and depth," said Jankovic.

"She didn't allow me to play my game. I changed tactics in the second set, but it was too late. I missed on two set points in the second. Today was her day. She was the better player and deserved to win." (dpa)


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