ROME (AP) — Jelena Jankovic lost the Italian Open final to unseeded Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez on Saturday, falling 7-6 (5), 7-5 to the Spaniard's array of touch volleys and drop shots.
The seventh-ranked Serb beat hard-hitting Venus and Serena Williams in her previous two matches, but struggled against Martinez Sanchez's clay-court shotmaking in this warmup for the French Open in two weeks.
It's the first Tier I title — and third title overall — for the 26th-ranked Martinez Sanchez, a left-hander who beat second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the third round and knocked out former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals.
"It was really an unbelievable tournament for me," Martinez Sanchez said. "What can I say? It's incredible."
Jankovic was aiming for her third title at the Foro Italico, but more than once ended up sprawled on the clay after chasing down drop shots.
"She played so well," Jankovic said. "She really killed me with all those drop shots, and I killed myself falling all over the place."
Martinez Sanchez jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the opening set with Jankovic appearing befuddled by the Spaniard's sharp angles.
But Martinez Sanchez's game then abandoned her for a stretch due to apparent nerves. And when she served for the set at 5-2, she wasted her chance with a weak overhead that led to an error into the net.
Jankovic gained confidence and started moving forward more and imposing her game with shots deep to the corners, winning four consecutive games to take a 6-5 lead. But she too then wasted a set point with a routine forehand into the net, and Martinez Sanchez broke back to force a tiebreaker.
The turning point in the tiebreaker came when Martinez Sanchez sliced a backhand to Jankovic's backhand, setting up a volley she put away into the open court to take a 6-4 lead.
Martinez broke in the opening game of the second set, then let Jankovic draw even at 3-3. The Spaniard went ahead again, but double-faulted serving for the match at 5-3 to hand Jankovic the game.
Martinez Sanchez came back to win the next two games. She converted her second match point with a characteristic serve out wide to Jankovic's backhand, setting up a comfortable volley winner into the open court to draw large applause from the nearly full new 10,500-seat stadium at the Foro Italico.