Henin Edges Jankovic, Faces Bondarenko in Warsaw Final

Posted on May 6, 2007

WARSAW, Poland - Two of the most successful women in J&S Cup history took the court Saturday afternoon for their semifinal matches, but only one managed to advance through to the final. Justine Henin will be joined by surprise finalist Alona Bondarenko on Sunday, as the two players battle it out for the championship trophy at the Tier II event.

Henin, the top seed and a champion here in Warsaw in 2005, overcame a tough, spirited challenge from No.4 seed Jelena Jankovic in Saturday's first semifinal, battling for over two and a half hours for a 75 26 64 victory.

The match seemed to be going heavily in Henin's favor early on, as she burst out to a 4-0 lead and held a point for 5-0; but the Belgian barely held onto that edge, as Jankovic evened things to 4-all and eventually dropped the set, 7-5. The Serb would take complete control of the second set, but the third was a near-repeat of the first, as Henin surged ahead 3-1 before closing it out in tighter fashion, 6-4.

"I started the match really well but lost my intensity; in the second set I lost my game, and the third set was a real fight," Henin said afterwards. "It's good to win a match like this though, one with ups and downs like that. Also, I always expect a tough match from her; she has given me a lot of trouble in the past."

"I wanted to win really badly in the end, but I just couldn't do it," Jankovic said. "I had some chances at 4-4 but I just didn't take them. I made some bad mistakes. I wasn't nervous; I was going for my shots, but you can't always make them."

Henin now improves to 4-0 lifetime against Jankovic, all four of those match-ups having gone to three sets. Their first round duel at 2005 Charleston ended 57 64 63, their 2006 US Open semifinal ended 46 64 60 (Jankovic held a point for 5-2 in that second set) and their Doha semi earlier this year was settled, 67(5) 62 64.

The world No.1's final opponent will be world No.40 Bondarenko, who achieved her first Top 10 victory in the day's second semifinal, beating world No.5 Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets, 62 76(4). The unseeded Bondarenko allowed a 5-3 second set lead to dissipate as No.3 seed Kuznetsova rallied back to force a tie-break but it was too late, and the three-time returning finalist was sent packing.

"I surprised myself," Bondarenko said afterwards. "I just tried to play my game and concentrate on every point and not think about the last point or her game. I wasn't playing so well in the first set but started to play my best in the second."

"It just wasn't my day," said Kuznetsova, who fell to 11-5 at this event. "Breaking back in the second set felt like a turning point; I had my chances in the tie-break but each time something seemed to get in the way. I also began each match here slowly, so I thought I'd be able to turn the match around. But that didn't happen."

Bondarenko moves into to her third Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles final, having won her first title at the Tier II event in Luxembourg last fall and finished runner-up at a smaller event in Hyderabad in 2005.

Henin and Bondarenko will be playing for the first time.

The doubles final scenario is similar to the singles; No.2 seeds Elena Likhovtseva and Elena Vesnina were expecting to face No.1 seeds Mara Santangelo and Katarina Srebotnik, but instead they'll play non-seeds Vera Dushevina and Tatiana Perebiynis, who took out the Italian-Slovenian duo Saturday, 62 64. (WTA)