Sharapova outlasts Jankovic for Cincinnati title
CINCINNATI (AP)—Maria Sharapova rallied to beat Jelena Jankovic 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the Western & Southern Open final on Sunday.
The fourth-seeded Sharapova fended off Jankovic’s seven breakpoint chances in the last set alone to claim her second title of the season. Sharapova’s best moments came in the tiebreaker, when she won the last five points to level the match.
“That’s pretty much it, putting five points together that were well-played,” she said.
Such stretches were rare in a ragged match that lasted 2 hours, 49 minutes and had a pair of brief rain delays.
The 14th-ranked Jankovic extended her streak of 17 months without a singles title. The Serb won at Cincinnati in 2009, but hasn’t claimed a championship since Indian Wells on March 21 last year.
“This match could have gone either way,” she said. “I had my chances. It showed the match is not over until you shake the hand.”
Jankovic shook hands and then sat in her chair after the match, biting a white towel while staring straight ahead, thinking about what had just happened. The match ended when her baseline forehand sailed wide.
Despite the loss, Jankovic was upbeat. She came to Cincinnati feeling rusty and lacking confidence after playing few matches lately and having little success.
“I’m pretty unpredictable,” she said. “If somebody told me I was going to play a final here, I would right away sign the paper.”
It was a sweet about-face for Sharapova, who reached lost to Kim Clijsters in last year’s Cincinnati final.
“It’s been a great year for me so far,” Sharapova said. “It can always be better or worse. I’m definitely proud I’ve gone further than last year, after the disappointing loss here last year.”
Clijsters withdrew this year with an abdominal strain that will also cause her to miss the U.S. Open, where she’s won the last two times.
The tournament ended with a pairing of players who had only one singles title between them this season, Sharapova’s championship at Rome.
Jankovic, who was ranked No. 1 as recently as 2008, has struggled with back, wrist and ankle injuries during her long run with only one singles title. The Serb reached only one other final this season, losing at Monterrey.
Rain briefly delayed the start of Sunday’s match, and again for a few minutes in the fourth game, when the players stayed in their chairs waiting for it to stop.
Sharapova was more aggressive at the start, breaking Jankovic’s serve twice while pulling ahead 4-1. She won 19 of the first 27 points and appeared to be in control. Then Jankovic changed the momentum, breaking Sharapova three times in a row. She won the set when Sharapova double faulted.
Neither player could hold serve in the third set, which started with six straight breaks. Sharapova threw back her head and pumped her left arm after holding serve to go up 4-3.
“You find yourself in the third set, you’ve played two hours, it’s a finals match—obviously a lot of emotion going through it,” Sharapova said.
When Jankovic doubled faulted twice to lose the next game on her serve, Sharapova was in position to close it out.