Sharapova Returns To Australian Open Final

Maria Sharapova went 5-for-5 on break points to beat Petra Kvitova in the second semifinal.

Published January 26, 2012 12:00

Sharapova Returns To Australian Open Final
Maria Sharapova

MELBOURNE, Australia - With some inspired play on the most important points, Maria Sharapova battled past Petra Kvitova and into the final of the Australian Open on Thursday afternoon, getting to within one step away from her fourth Grand Slam title and a return to the World No.1 ranking.

Sharapova went into the semifinal as somewhat of an underdog, ranked and seeded two spots lower than Kvitova (No.4 to No.2) and having lost their last two meetings (including in straight sets in the Wimbledon final last year).

Those things may have given Sharapova extra motivation, though. She came out swinging in front of a packed crowd on Rod Laver Arena, and even though she dropped the middle set she never stopped fighting, scoring a 62 36 64 victory, even rallying from a break down in the marathon 56-minute third set.

While Sharapova's serve may have let her down somewhat - she had zero aces to 10 double faults - an even more important number jumps out from the stats sheet: while Kvitova was 3-for-14 on break points, Sharapova was 5-for-5.

"Sometimes when you're not playing your best, you find a way," Sharapova said. "It can be an hour or three hours, but you just try to win every point.

"I was down on my serve a lot in the third set, 0-30, 15-40, but I just kept going for it and trying not to let her finish off the points how she likes to do.

"I just came back in a few games and I think that was the key."

Sharapova is now through to her sixth Grand Slam final, having gone 3-2 in her first five - her titles coming at Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. This is the only Slam she has been to three finals at now - she was a runner-up to Serena Williams here in 2007.

"It means so much to be back in a Grand Slam final," Sharapova said. "It's nice to get this far here at the Australian Open again after losing quite early the last couple of years. But that's the way my career path has gone and I don't regret anything that has happened - obviously it would have been nice not to have a serious injury at 21 years old, but sometimes it's just the way things go.

"The good thing is I found a way to come back."

With Victoria Azarenka winning the first semifinal against Kim Clijsters (read more here), the final will also determine No.1 - whoever wins gets it.

"Having been in that position before, it doesn't really add anything for me," Sharapova said of No.1. "It's more about the Grand Slam win than the ranking."

Azarenka and Sharapova are tied in their head-to-head series, 3-3.

Kvitova had won 19 of her last 20 matches going into the semifinal match.

"I wanted to continue how I played in the second set in the third set, and I had a lot of chances to break her, but I just didn't do it," Kvitova said. "I served very well in the third set but there was just one game I didn't really make my first serves, and she returned really well in that game. It was unfortunate for me.

"Of course I'm disappointed right now, but if I look back in a week, it will be a good tournament for me, my first semifinal at the Australian Open."

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