Like all good students, Maria Sharapova knows the importance of fitting in your homework between games. The Russian world No 4 beat Martina Hingis in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open at lunchtime here yesterday, went back to her hotel to study chemistry in the afternoon and returned in the evening to the tennis courts, where she beat Lindsay Davenport to earn a place against Justine Henin-Hardenne in tonight's final.
Rain interruptions had forced the organisers to schedule the quarter-finals and semi-finals on the same day and it was nearly midnight by the time Sharapova had completed her 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Davenport, the defending champion. Davenport had been taken to three sets earlier in the day by another young Russian, Maria Kirilenko, and it was Sharapova who lasted the distance in a hard-hitting contest full of bold winning shots.
Hingis, continuing her comeback after three years out of the game, was unable to repeat her win in Tokyo earlier this month over Sharapova. The way in which the 19-year-old Russian raised her arms in celebration of her 6-3, 6-4 victory showed how much it meant to her. "I was fighting to get my revenge," Sharapova said. "I knew she would fight till the end."
A vociferous crowd was largely on the side of Hingis, who won several thrilling rallies and again displayed the wonderful variety in her game. The 25-year-old Swiss even made a number of successful forays to the net, but paid for a large number of unforced errors and was frequently exposed by Sharapova's booming forehand.
"I wasn't as concentrated as the last time we met, but she played well," Hingis said. "It was just a lack of patience which made me come up short. You can't allow someone like her back into the game. I had so many game points I couldn't take."
The other half of the draw featured Amélie Mauresmo, whose run of three tournament triumphs and 16 unbeaten matches ended when she was beaten 7-6, 6-4 by Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarter-finals.
For someone who had played so positively on her way to victories in Melbourne, Paris and Antwerp, it was a curiously subdued display by the Australian Open champion. Mauresmo wasted four set points before Kuznetsova won a 22-minute first-set tie-break 13-11 and squandered a 3-0 lead in the second set.
Kuznetsova was unable to take her form into the next match, losing to Henin-Hardenne. The Belgian, who had beaten Italy's Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 7-6 in the morning, defeated the Russian 6-2, 7-5 despite suffering a stomach ailment and sore shoulder.Reuse content