Sharapova avoids Serena
Maria Sharapova (Getty Images)
Istanbul - Maria Sharapova advanced her hopes of a triumphant end to a self-defining year by delivering a table-topping third win at the WTA Championships on Friday.
French Open champion Sharapova completed an improbable career Grand Slam during 2012, and now an emphatic victory over former US Open champion Samantha Stosur guaranteed that she gets the less difficult of the two semi-finals on Saturday.
That's because the Russian's 6-0, 6-3 win over the Australian enabled her to avoid Serena Williams, the unofficial favourite for the season-ending title.
Williams completed her third win on Thursday to finish top of the other group.
"Especially after my injury I've got a lot better at accepting losses as well as wins," Sharapova said, referring to the badly damaged shoulder which has required a four-year rebuilding of her career.
Few thought then that she could win another Grand Slam title, as she did in Paris in June.
Few thought either that she would recover from a set and 2-4 down as she did during a three-hour struggle on Wednesday against Agniezka Radwanska, the Wimbledon finalist from Poland.
So though Sharapova may be more inured to defeats, she remains one of the toughest resisters of them, and on Friday showed herself better than she has ever been at making opportunities count.
Sharapova imposed that on the unfortunate Stosur, a slightly off-the-pace late substitute for the unwell titleholder Petra Kvitova, who was overwhelmed in a first set lasting only 20 minutes.
During that time Stosur won a mere five points, and although she played better in the second set, there were only a couple of games where she seemed capable of delaying the outcome significantly.
These happened at 2-2 when Stosur reached break point, only for Sharapova to launch a danger-averting first delivery, and in the following game when Stosur fought hard and well to hold serve and keep her nose in front.
But Sharapova increasingly showed that her ground strokes these days produce more disguise, better angles and cleverer combinations than in her pre-injury days.
When she broke serve to love in the seventh game, she accelerated to an energy-conserving result.
"After a really long match in my previous round, I was just trying to be really aggressive today and not spend as much time as I did the other day," Sharapova said. "I knew coming in I was already going to be in the semis, but I didn't want to lose. I wanted to do the right things today and I did them."
Sharapova was made to wait to learn who she plays in Saturday's semi-finals with her opponent due to be the winner of a match in the other group between Victoria Azarenka, the world number one from Belarus, and Li Na, the former French Open champion from China.
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