French Open

Ivanovic and Safina in final

Ana Ivanovic returns a shot to Jelena Jankovic during her 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 semifinal victory in the French Open. Ana Ivanovic returns a shot to Jelena Jankovic during her 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 semifinal victory in the French Open. (PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Howard Fendrich
Associated Press / June 6, 2008

PARIS - If official statistics were tallied for fist pumps and self-exhortations during Grand Slam matches, Ana Ivanovic might well have established a record while winning her French Open semifinal.

Perhaps Ivanovic did not raise a clenched hand and let out a yelp after each of the 96 points she earned yesterday. It sure did seem that way to the woman she beat, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, Jelena Jankovic, who mocked the gesture at least twice, drawing guffaws from fans.

There was plenty at stake, and nerves clearly were raw.

The winner was assured of replacing Maria Sharapova at No. 1 in the rankings, in addition to earning a berth in tomorrow's championship match against 13th-seeded Dinara Safina. The younger sister of two-time major champion Marat Safin followed up her twin escape-from-match-point-down, three-set upsets of Sharapova and No. 7 Elena Dementieva with a straightforward 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova to reach her first Grand Slam final.

"I won in two sets," Safina said with a smile. "That's strange for me."

The men's semifinals today will feature No. 1 Roger Federer vs. unseeded Gael Monfils, and No. 2 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 3 Novak Djokovic.

The No. 2-seeded Ivanovic and No. 3 Jankovic produced a seesaw struggle filled with stretches of alternately brilliant and bad play by women who are from Serbia but hardly best friends.

"The match was really emotional," said Ivanovic, twice a finalist at majors but never a champion.

Jankovic led, 3-0, at the start. Ivanovic, though, won 16 of 18 points to end the first set, part of a six-game spurt. Then Jankovic used a seven-game run to claim the second set and a 2-0 lead in the third. Ivanovic took the final three games.

"I let it slip away," acknowledged the 23-year-old Jankovic, who was asked what she would do last night and replied: "I will have some dinner and maybe get drunk."

As for all of her fist pumps and shouts, Ivanovic explained: "It was a way to relieve . . . pressure, emotions I was feeling, and it worked well for me today. I didn't think about it. It just came natural."

Twice in the second set, Jankovic turned her back to Ivanovic and mimicked her uppercuts.

"For me, it's really funny the way she does that, and there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, each of us, we have our own way to, how to say, pump ourselves up. The way she does - I just imitated it," said Jankovic, now 0-4 in Grand Slam semifinals.

Safina's lack of big-match experience certainly didn't hurt against Kuznetsova, who entered the day 3-0 in major semifinals. Neither played particularly well - 46 of 122 points ended with unforced errors.

"I was too tight," Kuznetsova said, "and she was too confident."

Like her brother - who won the 2000 US Open and 2005 Australian Open - Safina has been known to show flashes of temper, but it was Kuznetsova who smacked one ball into the 12th row behind the opposite baseline after one missed forehand. Even when she double-faulted for the fifth time, Safina simply stood still at the baseline - no scream, no spike of her racket.

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