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

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea