Tennis | Sony Open

Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams advance to Sony Open final

 

Maria Sharapova advanced to her fifth Sony Open final, where she will play Serena Williams in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.

sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

This time, Maria Sharapova handled business neatly — and quickly.

Serena Williams blew past her opponent with a focused fury.

It will be a 1 vs. 2 title match at noon Saturday, when Williams meets Sharapova on Stadium Court for the 14th time in their careers.

World No. 2 Sharapova needed little more than an hour Thursday afternoon to put away Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-1 in a Sony Open semifinal and advance to her fifth final on Key Biscayne since 2005.

World No. 1 Williams later blew past Sony defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-3 in 1 hour 5 minutes to set up the championship match.

“Well, it’s another final,’’ a cool, calm Sharapova said, when asked to assess her chances several hours before Williams defeated fourth-ranked Radwanska.

“I don’t know who has been in five finals of this event in the women’s draw, so it’s certainly, you know, a big consistent at this tournament. But yet I haven’t won it, so it would mean a lot for me to be the champion here.’’

Five finals?

How about seven? That would be Williams, who crushed her Polish opponent as if she barely existed. Williams ended with 12 aces and one double fault. Her infant brother Dylan sat on her father Richard’s lap during the match.

Williams has won on Key Biscayne five of those seven times, her latest title coming in 2008. She has dominated Sharapova in the past, with an 11-2 head-to-head advantage. Both of Sharapova’s wins came in 2004.

“Oh my God! She’s playing so well,’’ Williams said of Sharapova after the victory. “I’ll do the best I can.

“… Every match is a new match. It doesn’t matter today’s results. I still have to start from zero Saturday. But I’m excited because I’m in the final again. Yay!”

Radwanska defeated Sharapova 7-5, 6-4 in last year’s Sony final.

Sharapova used the exceptionally beautiful day – sunny, but crisp, with temperatures in the low 70s, low humidity and a slight breeze — to play some of her finest tennis. A day after she had 44 unforced errors and 13 double faults in a grueling two-and-a-half-hour quarterfinal, the Russian committed only 10 unforced errors and three double faults, with six service breaks.

“It was important for me to physically and mentally be there because I didn’t feel like I played my best tennis [Wednesday],’’ Sharapova, 25, said. “It was really important to go out and change a few things, just have a better mentality, be a bit more positive. I felt like I did a few things better today. That’s why the result was a shorter one.’’

Sharapova has won 11 consecutive matches and a career-best 22 consecutive sets, while dropping two or fewer games 13 times.

Jankovic, 28, fell to 17-43 all-time against top-5 opponents.

On Thursday, she won only two of 27 points on Sharapova’s first serve, and only 18 of her own 50 service points. She credited Sharapova’s game, but also complained of having little time to recover after playing her previous match late Wednesday night.

“I didn’t do what I was supposed to do,’’ said Jankovic, a former world No. 1 in August 2008. “I served poorly today. Overall, I wasn’t moving. I felt heavy on the court. I felt really tired and exhausted.

“So I didn’t really have enough time to recover. I finished the match last night at 11. I went to sleep at 1 by the time I came back to the hotel. Woke up early and had to play. So today I wasn’t on top of my game, especially on a big occasion like playing the semifinal.’’

Williams, on the other hand, played her previous match before Thursday night at about 1 p.m. Tuesday. She had more than two days to rest. Radwanska played Tuesday night.

Before Thursday, Sharapova last played Wednesday afternoon.

“I think it should be worked by logic,’’ Jankovic, a Serb, said. “It does not make sense that the girls that had a day off [Williams and Sharapova], they play late at night [Thursday]. If I had more energy, if I was moving much better, I would hit the ball much better. I was late on every shot. I was serving poorly. I didn’t use my legs at all.

“Maria was taking advantage of that and did her job. … She was striking the ball very well.’’

“She has a lot of power.’’

Sharapova, coming off a tournament victory at Indian Wells, Calif., could become the third player to complete an Indian Wells and Miami title sweep in the same year. Steffi Graf did it in 1994 and 1996, with Kim Clijsters doing it in 2005.

“It would be nice,’’ Sharapova said. “But, you know, winning a title on its own, whether it’s here or Indian Wells, is a great achievement on its own.’’

As for Williams, no matter how she fares in the final she will leave Key Biscayne as the top-ranked player.

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