The No. 1 ranking will be on the line Saturday night in Flushing Meadows, rain permitting, when Serena Williams attempts to keep the US Open title in the U.S. against Serb Jelena Jankovic.
The younger Williams sister had a surprisingly easy time in the semifinals after suffering an early break, strolling past Russian Dinara Safina 6-3, 6-2 on Friday.
“An American back in the finals,” Serena said. “I am really excited.”
Jankovic gained the final by also out-slugging another Russian, beating Elena Dementieva 6-4, 6-4.
“As you could see, I was fighting out there,” said Jankovic, whose fitness critics and she herself have questioned during the event. “I never give up. I’m there until the last point, trying my best. This is really what has helped propel me through this tournament and now into the final.”
It is also the first Slam final for Jankovic, who earlier this year in the wake of Justine Henin’s retirement had the non-distinction of becoming the first player to become No. 1 with only a Slam semifinal on her resume.
“Mentally I’m a lot stronger now; I really believe in myself,” Jankovic said. “It’s about time for me to make that step forward, break that barrier and go a long way. I want to win a Grand Slam. This is why I came here.”
Williams came for the same reason, and sent a message not only by taming the windy conditions, but by drilling her opponent Safina in the shoulder in the second set.
“I thought, ‘OK, if it’s so windy, then I’m not going to go for so many winners,” Williams said of her controlled attack.
Safina blamed the result on losing her mental composure.
“I think I was behaving like a really spoilt girl today,” Safina told reporters. “I have to learn from these things if I want to get better. If I want to make one step in front, I have to learn to handle my emotions better. I think today I was feeling physically better than previous days but it’s too bad behavior from my side. Maybe I was 80 percent physically and mentally but I spent 60 of it being negative on the court, like shooting around and complaining about everything.”
Jankovic was also overcome but by a different kind of emotion, getting teary-eyed after reaching the final.
“I have tears in my eyes,” Jankovic said. “I’ve played five Grand Slam semifinals and to get to a final for the first time is unbelievable. I’m thrilled.”
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