DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Caroline Wozniacki, set to regain the No. 1 ranking, beat Jelena Jankovic 7-5, 6-3 Saturday at the Dubai Championships to reach her first final of the year.
The top-seeded Dane downed Jankovic for the first time and will play for the title Sunday against Svetlana Kuznetsova. The 16th-seeded Russian defeated Flavia Pennetta of Italy 6-4, 6-4 in the other semifinal
Wozniacki, who will supplant Kim Clijsters at the top of the rankings Monday, summoned her father, Piotr, at courtside when trailing 3-0 in the first set.
"He just kept encouraging me," she said. "He said 'No worries. You just made a few mistakes out there that weren't necessary but just keep your feet moving.' I know these things already. But it's just nice. Just calms me down a bit."
The sixth-seeded Jankovic, who rallied in her two previous matches, served for the set at 5-3 but missed four set points and hit long to drop serve. Wozniacki reeled off the next three games to win the set.
"I just kept fighting," Wozniacki said. "I had a good feeling going into the match even though I started off a little slower today. She started off well and I made a few mistakes. But then I felt like I started to hit the ball really well. I was thinking if she wins this match it's just too good because I'm starting to feel this right now."
In the second set, Wozniacki settled into long rallies to wear down the Serb whom she had not beaten four previous times. After Wozniacki broke for 3-2, Jankovic asked for a medical timeout for a blister on her left foot. She returned to break back only to see Wozniacki return and win the next two games.
"It was tough. I had a lot of opportunities in that first set, and I kind of let them slip a way," Jankovic said. "I let her rally, you know, in those points. There were some really long rallies that suit her. She was, you know, the better one at the end. She was just too solid."
Jankovic, who climbed back to No. 2 after Wimbledon, was hampered by injuries in the second half of 2010, and was encouraged by making her first semifinals since the French Open last June.
"This tournament gives me a lot of confidence," Jankovic said. "It shows that I'm still up there and that I can beat top players and go pretty far in tournaments."
Kuznetsova responded after trailing 3-1 in the first set. There were six service breaks in the second set as both players struggled with their serve. Pennetta, seeded 11th, broke to go up 4-3 but then the Russian broke back to even the set and then won the last two games — punctuated with two blistering forehand winners in the last game.
"It was a difficult match, difficult conditions. I think out of all the surfaces I played with Flavia, it's the one that suits her a lot because it's fast and can she use my power," Kuznetsova said.
The two-time Grand Slam winner is happy with her play after a year in which she routinely lost in the first round and dropped out of the top 20 last year for the first time since 2003.
"What matters the most is my game. My game is back," Kuznetsova said. "Maybe not in the highest, highest level, but I'm competing against the best players and beating top-10 players and I'm comfortable on the court. So I'm in the finals. It's great for me."