Carson tournament facing net deficit
By Jim Thomas, Staff Writer
Thanks to the withdrawal of No. 2 seed Serena Williams and the third-set breakdown of No. 3 Anna Chakvetadze on Thursday at Home Depot Center, today's quarterfinals of the East West Bank Classic are decidedly out of balance.
On one side, No. 1 seed Jelena Jankovic and No. 4 Dinara Safina are on a collision course for the semifinals, with No. 9 Nadia Petrova and No. 8 Victoria Azarenka standing in the way of that intriguing showdown.
On the other side? Well, No. 10 Flavia Pennetta and No. 14 Sybille Bammer are the only seeds left and unheralded but hard-charging American Bethanie Mattek looks as capable as anyone of making it to her first WTA final.
To her credit, the emotional Chakvetadze didn't hide what her 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 loss to Bammer meant.
"I am disappointed," said the 21-year-old Russian, who is ranked No. 8 in the world. "I had an open draw (to the final) and I didn't take advantage of the opportunity."
Jankovic clearly was feeling better about her game after Thursday's victory.
"I want to play," she said when asked about the wisdom of playing on a sore knee when four other big names dropped out. "I want to get sharper ... keep going, maybe from No. 2 (in the world) to No. 1."
Jankovic, by contrast, faces a much tougher road to Sunday's title match. But the 23-year-old Serb looked fully capable of getting there during a sharp victory over Hungary's Melinda Czink, 6-3, 6-3, less than 24 hours after she struggled to get past Long Beach's Vania King in her first match since Wimbledon.
"I was much, much better today," said Jankovic, who is ranked No. 2 in the world and is closing in on No. 1. "I was pleased with my serve, and overall I played better tennis.
"I am happy there is no pain (in her sore knee). I am getting in better shape after not doing much the past few weeks."
Then again, Petrova looked capable of giving Jankovic all she can handle when they meet tonight at 8 on stadium court. The 26-year-old Russian, once ranked as high as No. 3 in the world but now 17th, defeated fifth-seeded Vera Zvonareva, 6-4, 7-5, and seems to be finding her once-formidable game this week in Carson.
Safina got a big scare, surviving one match point before defeating fellow Russian Alla Kudryavtseva, 7-6 (1), 0-6, 7-6 (3), and will face Belarus' Azarenka, who disposed of Australia's Samantha Stosur, 6-4, 7-6 (4). The winner will face the Jankovic-Petrova winner in Saturday's semifinals.
On the other side of the bracket, Mattek defeated Bulgaria's Olga Govortsova, 7-5, 6-2, and will face 122nd-ranked Yuan Meng, who defeated lucky loser Melanie South, 6-2, 6-3. And boy is she raring to go.
"It just keeps building," she said, referring to the momentum she's building this season. "I believe now that if I play to my potential, I'm confident I can beat anyone.
"I have thought about what's there in this tournament, but I know I still have to go out and do it. I'm playing a top girl tomorrow and I have to play well."
Her confidence paid off against Govortzova, who earlier eliminated sixth-seeded Gabriela Hantuchova. She trailed, 5-2, before rallying to win the first set and win the match going away.
"I just got mad," she said. "I thought I was playing well but just making some mistakes. I got a little more intense and took control."
If Mattek prevails today, she will face the winner of Pennetta-Bammer on Saturday.