Maria Sharapova to meet Victoria Azarenka in Australian Open final

 

Maria Sharapova avenged her defeat in the Wimbledon final to Petra Kvitova with a gutsy three-set victory over the Czech in the last four of the Australian Open today.

Sharapova, who won 6-2 3-6 6-4 to move through to a meeting with Victoria Azarenka in the title-decider, was overpowered at times but found the reserves to advance.

Saturday's champion will also become the new world number one, taking over from Caroline Wozniacki, who will drop to number four.

"I just felt in the third set she had the advantage because I was always down on my serve," said Sharapova.

"I thought I had to hit it and don't let her finish the points the way she likes to.

"I just hung in there and got a few returns in in that final game, perhaps that was the key."

Kvitova looked completely out of sorts in the first set, with her movement particularly suspect.

Sharapova, on the other hand, was full of intensity and forced an early break from the Czech and although her opponent hit back, further breaks in the fifth and seventh games handed her the opening set.

The Russian started the second shakily with her serve, so often her Achilles heel, starting to falter and a double fault on break point handed Kvitova a route back into the contest.

And with the momentum shifting as Kvitova's powerful groundstrokes started to find their target, the second seed levelled with ease.

The players traded breaks at the start of the decider and having come through a titanic seventh game, Sharapova made her move to snatch the Kvitova serve and clinch the match.

Earlier, Azarenka advanced to her first grand slam final after outlasting defending champion Kim Clijsters in a remarkable encounter.

Clijsters, on what could have been her last appearance Down Under as she is due to retire at the end of the season, fought hard but Azarenka's bludgeoning ground strokes proved too much as the Belarusian won 6-4 1-6 6-3 in two hours and 12 minutes of absorbing tennis.

The Belgian's impending departure from the women's game means the chasing pack are jostling for position and on this evidence Azarenka will be at the forefront.

Her powerful all-court game has seen her knock on the door for a number of years but the way she regrouped after losing the second set suggests she is becoming a more complete player.

"I felt like my hand weighed about 200kg and my body was 1000kg, everything was shaking but that feeling when you finally win is such a relief, I just want to cry," she said after being asked to describe the closing points.

"I was just trying to stay in the moment.

"Kim really took over in the second set and I felt there was nothing I could do. In the third I just tried to let my shots go a little bit.

"I am really glad that I fought for every ball."

On her improved mental attitude, she joked: "I think before you all thought I was a mental case but I am just young and emotional."

Azarenka was outstanding in the early exchanges, her greater weight of shot pushing Clijsters further behind the baseline and she was quick to punish the short ball.

She broke for a 2-1 lead and overcame some uncertain moments on serve and a noisy flypast to celebrate Australia Day to see out the set.

The second was a complete contrast as Azarenka started to throw in numerous unforced errors and the experienced Clijsters seized her chance, winning it in 36 minutes to level matters.

Previously that would have signalled the beginning of the end for Azarenka but she displayed her new-found mental fortitude to claim a 4-1 lead despite Clijsters' best efforts.

The four-time grand slam champion was staring down the barrel at 4-2 40-0 down but in a courageous last stand hit back to break and get it back on serve.

But again, Azarenka stood firm, a crushing forehand seeing her break back and she served it out.

PA

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence