CINCINNATI, August 17 – Serbia's Jelena Jankovic boosted her US Open hopes with a brisk 6-4, 6-2 victory over world number one Dinara Safina on Sunday in the final of the two million-dollar WTA Cincinnati Open.
"My smile is back and I’m having fun playing the matches," said Jankovic, who started the year atop the world rankings but has seen her status slip with a series of lackluster results. "This is what I missed. I missed this for maybe seven months this year."
Jankovic bounced back from a tough semi-final victory on Saturday night to claim her second title of 2009, after a victory in a claycourt tournament in Marbella in April.
"When I woke up this morning I felt really sore, especially after going to sleep at 2 am," said Jankovic, who needed almost three hours to overcome Elena Dementieva in the semis – a match in which Jankovic trailed 6-2 in the third-set tiebreaker.
But she showed no sign of weariness as she had just nine unforced errors in pocketing the first set over struggling Safina.
"I was just a little bit off today, I would say," Safina said. "I was feeling very confident stepping into the court, and then I was just totally off."
Jankovic got a scare in the second set when she landed awkwardly on her left leg. She received treatment on her thigh and didn’t seem to be slowed as she finished off a victory that was especially sweet in light of her struggles this season.
Jankovic claimed the world number one spot last August, but couldn’t break through for a Grand Slam victory.
Hoping to improve her fortunes in the majors she changed her training regime, putting on 15 pounds in a bid to beef up her game.
Instead, she just felt slow. After falling to teenager Melanie Oudin in the third round at Wimbledon, Jankovic took time off to regroup, and also help her ailing mother – usually her companion on tour – get through surgery.
On Sunday her time away appeared to have been well-spent.
"I’m happy that I’m back," said the 24-year-old, who will move from fifth to fourth in the rankings on Monday. "I’m back in this (leading) group of players."