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Kuznetsova shocks Jankovic

RUSSIA'S Svetlana Kuznetsova ended Jelena Jankovic's two-year reign as Italian Open champion when she beat the Serb 6-1, 7-6 (3) in Rome yesterday to go through to the semifinals.

Former US Open champion Kuznetsova will now be up against sixth-seeded Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, who won a scrappy affair against Estonia's Kaia Kanepi 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Jankovic, who defeated Kuznetsova in the 2007 final for the first of her two Rome titles, could find no answer to the venom in her seventh-seeded opponent's forehands in the first set.

She fared better in the second set, twice pulling back dropped serves and forcing two break-and-set points in the 12th game.

But Kuznetsova, in fine fettle after ending a title drought stretching back to 2007 at last week's Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, saved them both before sealing victory in the tiebreak with a backhand winner.

"She was hitting the ball very, very well, deep and with a lot of power," Jankovic told a news conference.

"She didn't allow me to play my game, especially in the first set. She deserved to win. I wanted to win here three times in a row.

"Unfortunately it didn't happen. But it's not the end of world," added Jankovic, who has slipped to No. 4 in the rankings after ending 2008 top.

World No. 1 Dinara Safina was meeting Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and American fourth seed Venus Williams was taking on Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska for the other places in the last four.

In Oeiras, Portugal, James Blake advanced to the quarterfinals of the Estoril Open with a 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over Frenchman Marc Gicquel yesterday.

The fourth-seeded American had five aces and looked more assured than in his opening-round match at the outdoor claycourt event, when he rallied from a set down to beat Frederico Gil.

This time he also faced tough resistance in the first set, as Gicquel twice held his serve at love and never looked likely to allow a break. However, Blake showed more authority in the second, breaking Gicquel in the fifth and seventh games.

Seventh-seeded Spaniard Albert Montanes also advanced by beating Simon Greul of Germany, 6-2, 6-2.

In the women's event, sixth-seeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova will be the highest seed in the semifinals after rallying to overcome No. 2 Maria Kirilenko 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.

She will take on Anna-Lena Groenefeld, who advanced after fourth-seeded Sabrine Lisicki retired with a shoulder injury after losing the first set 2-6.

The other semifinal will pit No. 7 Shahar Peer of Israel against Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer. Peer ousted Slovakia's Jarmila Groth 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 and Wickmayer upset third-seeded Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.

Top-seeded Iveta Benesova went out in the second round to Groth.


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