Saturday, August 15, 2009

Safina and Jankovic to meet in Cincinnati final

The word that best describes today's Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open semifinals is "unfortunate." Both matches left much to be desired, but in oh, so different ways.

Flavia Pennetta, at one point in her match, told her coach she simply no longer had legs. Exhausted after playing 11 straight matches, and moving around with a wrapped ankle and blisters on both feet, Pennetta could barely keep up. It didn't help that her opponent, Dinara Safina, played about as well as one could ever hope. Obviously, Pennetta needs a rest. In under an hour, Safina won the match 6-2, 6-0.

Then there was the other semifinal, which dragged on for two hours and 45 minutes because both players tried so hard to lose it. The score--7-6, 0-6, 7-6--says a lot, but you had to see it to truly appreciate the bizarre nature of the contest between Jelena Jankovic and Elena Dementieva. Dementieva hit twice as many winners as the off-kilter Jankovic, and was superb at the net, but she also made 55 unforced errors. And she double-faulted 17 times, so those of us who thought she had "moved on" in the service department were not exactly right.

Winning a game meant virtually nothing in this match; there were 15 breaks of serve. Two of those occurred on the two occasions when Jankovic served for the match. And the match had a rather poetic conclusion, in that the final tiebreak was a microcosm of the entire match: Dementieva went up 5-1 (a mirror image of her opponent's first set tiebreak score), then 6-2, and failed to convert any of her four match points. Instead, she wound up the loser.

I am an admirer of both Jankovic and Dementieva, and could hardly stand to see them both play so poorly. While I was watching, I had visions of Safina relaxing in her hotel room, planning a massage and shopping spree. Of course, the real Jelena Jankovic could always show up for tomorrow's final, and that would give the crowd the best show yet.

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