STUTTGART, Germany - Ana Ivanovic was building some major momentum at the Porsche Arena - she won both of her Fed Cup matches here on the weekend, and her first two rounds here. It was going to take something special to put a stop to it - Maria Sharapova came up with that something.
The two Grand Slam champions and former World No.1s put on a dazzling display of power tennis on Center Court but after two hours and 16 minutes it was Sharapova who came out on top, recording a 75 46 64 victory. Things got a little difficult in the end, as Sharapova watched a 4-1 third set lead dissipate to 4-all, but a love break got her back on track and she held serve to close the match out.
"It was another really tough match today, and I really had to push myself to the end to win it," Sharapova said. "I'm really happy I managed to win - why shouldn't I be? I feel like there were some opportunities in the second set and I gave them away a little bit, but I knew I just had to give myself a little bit more energy in the third set, and turn it up a bit. Thankfully I closed it out in the end."
Sharapova has reached the semifinals or better at all five tournaments she has played this year, and actually at her last seven overall - she was a finalist at her last two tournaments of 2012 as well.
Sharapova Vs Ivanovic Video: Match Highlights
Next up for the No.1 seed and defending champion is No.3 seed Angelique Kerber, who beat Yaroslava Shvedova, 63 76(2). Kerber also had some difficulties closing her match out - she originally led 63 31, seemingly headed for a routine win - but Shvedova closed in before ultimately losing.
"We both played well," Kerber said. "I was fully concentrated right from the first point and tried to make her move around and not let her get into the match - luckily enough my tactics worked well today.
"It was extremely important for me to play as well as possible at my home tournament. Reaching the semifinals is a big achievement for me. But I'm not going to put myself under any pressure. I'm naturally going to have the crowd behind me - they've been supporting me so fantastically all week."
Kerber has another motivation this week. "I have a bet with my coach Torben - if I win the tournament then he has to ride one of those terrifying rides over the road at the fun fair," she said. "It's going to be spectacular whatever happens because I've already chosen the ride. There's one problem about it though - the ride is only for people up to 1.95 meters of height, and Torben is over two meters!"
"It helps that I played a lefty in my last match and got a lot of practice," Sharapova said afterwards. "I've had good success against Angelique the last few times we've played. There are things that are tricky about playing a lefty - it's definitely tricky returning their serve - but I'm really looking forward to the match."