Sharapova Storms Into SFs

Three former No.1s and the highest-ranked teenager in the world make up the final four.

Published August 13, 2010 12:00

Sharapova Storms Into SFs
Maria Sharapova

CINCINNATI, OH, USA - Ana Ivanovic continued her resurgence in Cincinnati, securing a spot in the Top 40 with a 61 63 rout of Akgul Amanmuradova.

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Ivanovic stared down a 62 53 deficit against Victoria Azarenka in her first round match but has barely lost any games since then, coming back to win that match then racing past Yaroslava Shvedova and Elena Vesnina in her next two matches, and Friday rolling past Amanmuradova in just 56 minutes.

Before this week, Ivanovic had only won back-to-back matches twice this year, en route to semifinal finishes at Brisbane and Rome. Now she's in her third semi of the year and looking for her first final since Indian Wells in March 2009.

"It definitely feels good to slowly crawl up those rankings. And just winning matches gives me more confidence," Ivanovic said afterwards. "For me, it's a goal to win a tournament rather than improve my ranking a certain amount of spots. But being seeded at the US Open would be huge. I haven't thought about it a lot, but that would mean I don't have to play Serena first round!"

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Amanmuradova had upset No.1 seed Jelena Jankovic on Thursday.

"Ana was the better player today," Amanmuradova said. "I'm very happy with my performance this week, even though I lost today. I've played six matches, and usually if you win that many you already won the title, so I can't complain."

Earlier in the day, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won her ninth match in a row with a 75 36 61 win over No.12 seed Yanina Wickmayer. She won five to win Istanbul and four here, including an upset of No.3 seed Elena Dementieva.

Pavlyuchenkova started the match down 5-1 but won the first set, a valuable comeback given the hot and humid sunny conditions Friday afternoon.

"It may sound weird now, but I still felt I could come back in the first set. I've had a few matches like this where I was down two breaks and came back," Pavlyuchenkova said. "At that moment I was just trying to break her, then hold and so on. And then I just tried to find my best game for the next sets."

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Kim Clijsters, seeded No.4, snapped up the third semifinal berth with a tight 76(6) 64 win over No.11 seed Flavia Pennetta. Pennetta had ousted No.6 seed Vera Zvonareva en route to the quarters and had all kinds of leads, including 4-2 in the first set, a set point in the breaker and 3-1 in the second set.

"We're all professional athletes, and we know the first set being won or lost doesn't mean you've won the match. But to win that set was comforting," Clijsters said. "It was an advantage to have going into the second set."

Maria Sharapova, the No.10 seed, completed the semifinal line-up with a 61 64 win over No.16 seed Marion Bartoli in the night match, her fourth straight set win in the pair's four meetings. There were some tight moments at the end though, as Sharapova needed five match points to close it out, double faulting on three of her first four match points, two at 5-2 and one at 5-4.

"I had a bit of a hiccup with those two games in the end, but I was fortunate enough to stay focused and win it," Sharapova said. "She is a different type of opponent. She doesn't give you much time and is really aggressive - I had to take it to her from the beginning, and many things were going well for me."

On Saturday, Clijsters faces Ivanovic and Sharapova faces Pavlyuchenkova. Clijsters is 1-0 in her head-to-head against Ivanovic, winning their prior meeting handily; Sharapova and Pavlyuchenkova is a first-time meeting.

"I've never played against Maria - I've seen her play before," Pavlyuchenkova said. "She's a very aggressive player, so I'll have to be even more aggressive."

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