STUTTGART, Germany - This may have been the first time in almost three years that the world's Top 4 players were all in the semifinals of a WTA event, but finals between Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova haven't been rare lately - and that's what will happen at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
World No.1 Azarenka was the first to make the final, taking an hour and 17 minutes to continue her domination of World No.4 Agnieszka Radwanska, 61 63, improving to 10-3 in the career series and a perfect 5-0 this year.
"I have a lot of respect for Agnieszka and what she has done this year. She has been showing some incredible results," Azarenka said. "Every time I play her I know I have to bring out my best - in a kind of ironic way, she brings out the best in me when I play her. We meet each other so often because we go to the far stages of tournaments. And I expected a tough match again today.
"The time of the match is not important. You could be spending two hours on the court but barely working hard and having no rallies, but you could spend one hour and it's so intense. I don't pay attention. I just try to stay focused."
Despite the loss, Radwanska was happy with her week. "Another semifinal this year at a very strong tournament is not a bad result of course," she said, "but playing against the same player all the time is not really fun! She is just playing great tennis this year and played another good match against me today.
"I'll be back to try and win the car next year!"
Radwanska will go back home to Poland for a few days to rest and then prepare for the rest of her clay court season. "Clay isn't really my favorite surface and I don't have a lot of points to defend from last year, so I don't have a lot of pressure right now," she said. "I'm enjoying clay this year, and I'm especially looking forward to Madrid with the new blue clay courts - I think it will be fun!"
The second semifinal was much tighter, with No.2-ranked Sharapova squeaking by No.3-ranked Petra Kvitova in a minute short of two hours, 64 76(3). The two put on a strong serving display, with just three breaks in 22 service games. Sharapova actually broke at 5-all in the second set and served for the match, even holding match point in that game, but ended up taking it in the breaker.
"In the last couple of matches this week I felt like it really came down to just a few points," Sharapova said afterwards. "Today it was just about one service break in the first set and just a couple of points in the tie-breaker."
Takeaway stat of the match: Kvitova converted on just one of 11 break points. In their last meeting at the Australian Open, she converted three of 14.
"I had a lot of chances - it was the same as in Melbourne," Kvitova said. "At the beginning of the match I wasn't returning well, and I think that continued in the second set. I didn't return her serve well and I think that was the key.
"But she had good serves when she needed them and from the baseline she was so aggressive - you have to be ready because she's very dangerous."
Kvitova's impressive 27-match indoor winning streak also came to an end.
"I'm disappointed after this match, but I did make the semifinals of my first clay court tournament of the year, so maybe in two days I'll be happy about it."
Azarenka leads Sharapova in their head-to-head series, 5-3, but perhaps more relevantly she has won both of their 2012 meetings handily - 63 60 in the Australian Open final and 62 63 in the Indian Wells final. In the pair's only clay court meeting at Rome last year Sharapova won, albeit by retirement.
"I look forward to the challenge," Sharapova said. "I've lost to Victoria the last few times so I'll go out there and hope to change things around. I'll look at the last few times we played and learn from my mistakes - but she's playing such confident tennis this year, and she's really the one to beat right now."