Venus Williams saw her chance of qualifying for the season-ending WTA Finals slip away Saturday after losing in straight sets to Jelena Jankovic of Serbia in the semifinals of the Hong Kong Open.
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams, seeded third, was defeated 6-4, 7-5 in a tense encounter which lasted 2 hours, 4 minutes in front of a packed center court at Victoria Park.
"It is disappointing. I had an off day while she probably played one of her best matches this year," Williams said.
The 35-year-old Williams needed to reach the final on Sunday to boost her chances of playing in the lucrative WTA Finals, starting Oct.25 in Singapore. The last time Williams played in the WTA Finals — where only the world's top eight-ranked singles players qualify — was in 2009 in Doha.
"I have had a good season and I wanted to make it to Singapore. But that hadn't anything to do with what happened today," Williams said. "I wasn't nervous or anything like that going into the match knowing I needed (to) win to boost my chances of qualifying. She just played well today."
Fourth-seeded Jankovic was helped by a wayward opponent whose usually strong serve deserted her. Williams also failed to take her chances, only converting two of 16 break points in the match.
"She played well on those points. I went for my shots, that is how I play, aggressively, but today was not my day," Williams said.
Last-minute wild-card entry Jankovic will now meet Germany's Angelique Kerber in the final.
"I'm very happy to have won. It is never an easy task to defeat Venus ... But I fought hard and I'm pleased with my performance," Jankovic said.
A topsy-turvy second set saw both players trade breaks early in the second set before Jankovic nosed ahead, breaking her opponent in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead.
But Jankovic buckled under the intense pressure of serving for the match and dropped her serve as Williams grimly held on to level the score at 5-5. However, the American continued to struggle with her service allowing Jankovic to break back.
Serving again for the match, the Serb made no mistake.
"When I was serving for the match for the second time, I told myself just get my first serves in and it worked. You never know what can come out of the racket of Venus if you give her a chance and I knew I had to serve well to finish it off," Jankovic said.
Earlier, Kerber moved within one win of cementing her place in the WTA Finals after beating Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-2, 6-2.
Second-seeded Kerber is presently ranked fifth in the Road to Singapore leaderboard and can book her ticket if she adds the Hong Kong Open title to her wins in Charleston, Stuttgart, Birmingham and Stanford.
The ninth-ranked Kerber was in commanding form as she brushed aside Stosur in 71 minutes.