JELENA GOES DOWN
ROME - Unseeded Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez produced a major surprise by beating world number seven Jelena Jankovic 7-6 7-5 in the Italian Open final on Saturday.
The Serb, who frequently looked bewildered by her opponent's unorthodox style, pulled back from 4-1 down in the first set and had a set point on serve at 6-5 before losing the tiebreak.
Jankovic then twice recovered breaks in the second set but Martinez Sanchez clinched the biggest title of her career after breaking for the third time.
Former world number one Jankovic beat Serena and Venus Williams earlier this week but fell short in her bid for a third Italian Open title.
Martinez Sanchez, ranked 26th, played with courage and showed that drop shots and forays to the net can bring results on clay.
"It was really difficult," Jankovic told a news conference.
"She plays very differently to most girls, lots of drop shots, serve and volley and she's left-handed.
"She mixes up her game, she doesn't have one weapon. She's tricky with all these things she does." Baseline Battles
Sanchez employed the same approach to surprise other opponents used to baseline battles on red dirt, defeating Ana Ivanovic and world number two Caroline Wozniacki on the way to the final.
The Spaniard signalled her intent from the start on Saturday, getting Jankovic scrambling to the net to recover drop shots.
The Serbian former champion crouched down on her knees for a few seconds after going down 4-1, seemingly seeking an answer to the left-hander's well-stocked box of tricks.
Martinez Sanchez let Jankovic back in the match with some unforced errors and wasted a set point at 5-4 but still managed to take the set with a smash at the net.
She kept mixing it up and proved her groundstrokes were not shabby either, rifling a splendid backhand winner to break for the third time in the second set to go 6-5 up.
Martinez Sanchez then clinched victory by nailing her second match point with a serve and volley winner.
Jankovic, the 2007 and 2008 champion, will climb to fourth in next week's rankings after reaching the final.
"Unfortunately I had to (beat the Williams sisters) earlier in the tournament and that takes a lot of energy out of you," said the Serb, who won the Indian Wells title in California in March.
"Last year I wasn't doing so well. I'm glad I'm back doing well. I'm still happy with (reaching) the final, I have to stay positive and keep working hard." - Reuter