Jankovic keeps Kuznetsova winless in finals this year
ROME -- Jelena Jankovic defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-1 Sunday to win the Italian Open and join Justine Henin as the only three-time winners on the women's tour this year.
Jankovic also won at Auckland, New Zealand, to open her season in January and took a clay-court title in Charleston, S.C., last month. This title -- also on clay -- established her as one of the favorites for the French Open, which begins next weekend.
"It's an unbelievable win for me," said Jankovic, who will rise to a career-high No. 4 in the next rankings. "I'm not putting any pressure on myself. I'm just playing and improving. Every week I'm getting better."
Jankovic became the first woman since Conchita Martinez 13 years ago to win this tournament without dropping a set.
"I didn't expect to win like that," Jankovic said. "She's one of the toughest players on clay. She's been in the final of the French Open. I play better on hard courts."
"It's an unbelievable win for me," Jankovic said.
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Kuznetsova dropped to 0-4 in finals this year. She was also runner-up in Doha, Qatar; Indian Wells, Calif., and Berlin last week.
"It's just a bit sad because I felt like I was playing so well," said Kuznetsova, who hadn't lost a set in reaching the final. "I was fighting a lot against myself. I didn't play the game I could have played. I had so many balls and I didn't finish, that was the key."
Both players struggled to hold serve -- Jankovic because her serve deserted her for long stretches and Kuznetsova because she committed too many baseline errors once she put the ball in play.
Jankovic's foot-speed enabled her to make Kuznetsova play more balls than she may have wanted in several long rallies.
"That was the key, I got so many balls back. She's such a powerful player," Jankovic said. "Maybe she had in her head that she had to play amazing shots."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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