Sat, September 06, 2008
Sports > Tennis & Golf

Serena Williams, Jankovic reach US Open final

2008-09-06 10:17:57 GMT2008-09-06 18:17:57 (Beijing Time)

Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts to match point against Dinara Safina of Russia during their semi-final match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadows in New York September 5, 2008.(Reuters Photo)

Her place in the final secure, Serena Williams briskly walked off center court and headed toward the locker room. In a hallway, she was intercepted by three of her fans who wanted a picture.

"Is that allowed?" she said, striking a pose. "Make this really quick."

Want a snapshot of her 6-3, 6-2 win over Dinara Safina in the U.S. Open semifinals Friday? Probably that wicked backhand Williams zinged off the Russian's shoulder in the second set.

"Overall, she's, I think, the strongest player on the tour, together with her sister," Jelena Jankovic said. "Nobody has the power that they have. We cannot compare."

Jankovic must figure something. A day after beating Olympic champion Elena Dementieva 6-4, 6-4, the Serbian star plays her first Grand Slam final Saturday night against Williams.

That is, if the weather permits.

With Tropical Storm Hanna getting closer and rain in the forecast, tournament organizers made contingency made that could mean postponing the match until Sunday.

"I'm going to try my best and that's all I care about," Jankovic said, "even if it's tomorrow or next day or in a week."

In an early bow to the weather, the men's semifinal between No. 2 Roger Federer and No. 3 Novak Djokovic was moved up an hour and will start at 11 a.m. Top-seeded Rafael Nadal and No. 6 Andy Murray will follow.

Williams ensured that least one member of her family will play for the title. In her previous match, she beat sister Venus in a pairing of two-time U.S. Open champions.

"I feel like Venus was playing the best in this tournament," fourth-seeded Serena said. "She had a chance to win. Maybe she would've even won."

Venus was in the stands cheering for her sister, as was their dad. So was mom Oracene Price, who did not attend the all-Williams match or watch on television.

"I was thinking to myself, 'OK, if you're going to beat your sister, you have to go all the way,'" Price said.

Williams returned to the final at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2002, when she beat Venus. Serena will try for her ninth Grand Slam trophy — she's 3-3 against Jankovic overall, and lost to her at the Australian Open this year.

"She has a lot of pressure to win her first Grand Slam," Williams said.

The weather had a definite affect Friday, with winds gusting over 20 mph. Players struggled to keep their shots in play all day, and most every ball that got tossed up for serves had a chance to be blown away.

At one point, the American flag above the video board at one end of Arthur Ashe Stadium flapped so loudly that Safina turned around to stare.

Not nearly as petulant as her brother, former U.S. Open champ Marat Safin, Safina had her moments. She frequently shook her head, admonished herself in English and Russian and once shouted, "I hate the wind!"

"I think I was behaving like a really spoiled girl," Safina admitted later. "I have to learn from these things."

While Safina often went for big shots and instead sailed the ball far beyond the baseline, Williams was more content to hit to the middle of the court. She overcame a 2-0 deficit in the first set, winning seven of the next eight games to take control.

"I thought, 'OK, if it's so windy, then I'm not going to go for so many winners," she said.

The second-seeded Jankovic rallied in both sets, and advanced to a matchup where the winner will emerge as the No. 1-ranked woman in the world.

Like Jankovic, Dementieva has never won a Grand Slam title. She did win the gold medal at Beijing, and was satisfied with her overall results in the last month.

"For me, Olympics was the biggest goal. I have no regrets at all," Dementieva said.

Still, she missed a great chance to reach this final. Ahead early, she became tentative and skittish and lost five straight games.

As it began to slip away, the fifth-seeded Dementieva began to look more and more at her mom in the family box. Failing to find any confidence, Dementieva made 42 unforced errors — Jankovic won only 66 total points.

"I just was trying to go for the winner and couldn't make it," Dementieva said. "I couldn't close the point."

Jankovic began the day 0-4 lifetime in major semifinals, including losses at this year's Australian Open and French Open. Skidding into the her favorite splits, she ran down returns and won the really long points.

"Mentally, I feel I'm a lot stronger, because I really believe in myself. I really want to do this, and it's about time for me to make that step forward to break that barrier," Jankovic said. "I want to win a Grand Slam, and this is why I came here."

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