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Sharapova Turns It Up, Beats Petkovic In SFs

After a slow start, Maria Sharapova took 11 straight games and eventually prevailed, 36 60 62.

Published March 31, 2011 12:00

Sharapova Turns It Up, Beats Petkovic In SFs
Maria Sharapova

MIAMI, FL, USA - Things didn't look great early on, but Maria Sharapova got her revenge for a shockingly easy loss at this year's Australian Open in the semifinals of the Sony Ericsson Open on Thursday, rebounding from losing the opening set and steamrolling Andrea Petkovic for a 36 60 62 victory.

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On a muggy day in Australia in January, while all eyes were on Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova's epic four-hour, 44-minute fourth round clash, Petkovic was handing a surprise 62 63 defeat to Sharapova on Rod Laver Arena, a quiet exit for someone who had gone into the event a top contender.

Over in Miami, coming off back-to-back upsets against No.1 seed Caroline Wozniacki and No.6 seed Jelena Jankovic, No.21 seed Petkovic was on her game again and took the first set from a No.16-seeded Sharapova, 6-3; but the former No.1 and winner of three Grand Slam titles was only getting started.

Sharapova shifted into top gear from that moment, hitting 12 winners to six errors to take the second set at love, then continued that momentum in the third set, extending her games winning streak to 11 by building a 5-0 lead, allowing Petkovic two games before finally closing the charismatic German out.

"I'm really happy I'm back in the finals here," said Sharapova, who is playing in Miami for the first time since 2007. "I'm almost lucky to be here. I had a tough one the other night and another three-setter today. Andrea has been playing the best tennis of her career and beat some good players here, so I was really happy I was able to change things around after losing the first set."

"I felt I was playing well in the first set. It was very windy and I think I got away with it quite well," Petkovic said. "In the second set, on one hand, I felt Maria really stepped up her game; on the other hand, there were so many close games, deuce, advantage, so many break points and game points, and I didn't manage to stay close to her. All of a sudden it was 3-0, 4-0, 5-0. I felt my energy slowly slipping away, and a champion like Maria senses any kind of weakness and plays much better. It was very tough for me to get into it then."

This will be Sharapova's third Sony Ericsson Open final, having finished runner-up in 2005 (to Kim Clijsters) and 2006 (to Svetlana Kuznetsova). By virtue of her quarterfinal win here, the Russian secured a return to the Top 10 after this tournament, her first time since February 1, 2009 (the last of her 239 previous career weeks in the elite). She is 22-11 in career WTA finals.

Sharapova will next play either No.3 seed Vera Zvonareva or No.8 seed Victoria Azarenka, who took the court at night. The Russian was asked what it would mean to win the title. "It would mean a lot. It's the biggest tournament after the Grand Slams. I look forward to going out there and getting it done."

Petkovic is projected to break into the Top 20 at No.19 after this result.

"Right now I'm still disappointed. I will feel empty the next two or three days trying to work things out," Petkovic commented, "but after a week or so I will be able to look back and see the positive things. I think I'll gain a lot of confidence, especially from the two victories over Caroline and Jelena this week."

As she has eluded to this fortnight, Petkovic is retiring the Petko Dance, which she does after winning her matches. But it may not be the end of the dance completely... "Novak told me he was going to do it. I saw him in Indian Wells doing something like it, but it wasn't really the Petko Dance. I really hope he steps up his game. But the Petko Dance from Petko is retired. I don't know if any other players will try to involve it. I would be very happy to see it."

Japanese No.1 Kimiko Date-Krumm has set up a personal fund called Always Smile to help the Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims. If you would like to help out, please visit http://www.kimiko-date.com/gien/index.html.

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