This content was published 13 years ago. It may refer to a past edition of the Internazionali d’Italia.
To the casual observer, Jelena Jankovic will be the red-hot favourite in Saturday’s women’s final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia
And that is no doubt a state of affairs which suits her opponent, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, down to the ground. On paper, we have a three-time champion facing a player better known for her doubles exploits, but opponents have been taking the Spaniard lightly all week, and coming off second best.
The Spanish lefty is very much the surprise package of the tournament, showing the kind of clay-court nous which is often lacking on the circuit. She will even serve and volley when she has to, but the main facets of her game are a swinging southpaw service right down the middle which fades away, a talent for the drop-shot and an eye for variation.
Maria Jose went into almost every match here as the underdog but was totally unfazed, losing the opening set of her opening match but proving to be almost untouchable since then. She leads the tournament in service games won and break points saved, which should serve her in good stead against a Jelena Jankovic who is brimming with confidence.
The No.7 seed did what Kim Clijsters managed in her first Grand Slam back after “maternity leave” last year, namely defeat both Williams sisters in the same tournament. Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Steffi Graf and Justine Henin also managed the feat, but none of them in the space of less than 24 hours (and certainly not serving up a 6-0, 6-1 to the elder of the two siblings in the process, either).
Jankovic also defeated Yanina Wickmayer in less than 60 minutes in the third round, but it was her three-hour semi-final epic over Serena which no doubt earned her the most respect. She saved a match-point on the world No.1’s service at 4-5, broke back again at 5-6 to force a tie-break and then refused to blink when she found herself 2-5 down in the decider (and likewise at 3-5 when Serena pulled out of the point when the Serb was mid-service).
She obviously has pedigree on clay and indeed at the Foro Italico, having won here in 2007 and 2008, and she will start as favourite over Martinez Sanchez, whom she defeated on clay in the Fed Cup last year, levelling the head to head since the two of them met back when they were teenagers in 2001 in Miami. Mind you, plenty of other people started out as favourite against “MJMS” this week…