SINGAPORE - Maria Sharapova battled past Flavia Pennetta in a tight two-setter to not only secure her spot in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, but to bring Agnieszka Radwanska - who battled past Simona Halep earlier in the day - with her.
Pennetta, who had beaten Sharapova the last three times they'd played, looked very strong early on, breaking in the first game of the match and hanging onto that break for a 4-2 lead. But Sharapova took it to a whole new level from there, painting the lines with her huge groundstrokes and mixing in some pinpoint drop shots to win five of the next six games and sneak out the 54-minute first set, 7-5.
The No.3-seeded Russian only got better in the second set, completely running away with it in 34 minutes to end the No.7-seeded Italian's WTA Finals hopes - and her illustrious career - 7-5, 6-1.
"I've lost the last couple of times against Flavia. I know what a tough competitor and opponent she is. I just wanted to get a little bit of revenge before she goes out of the game!" Sharapova said after.
"I just heard this was her last match. It's really sad to see such a great champion go. She's had an incredible career, and I was so happy she got the Grand Slam at the US Open. I was smiling for her."
"I'm happy to have had the chance to play this tournament," Pennetta said. "I think to have my last match against Maria - it was amazing to play such a good champion. And it was also a good way to say goodbye, because when you lose against such a good player, there aren't too many things to say."
Pennetta played a solid match - her winners outnumbered her unforced errors, 18 to 14. But Sharapova put together some phenomenal numbers - 30 winners, including seven aces, to 19 errors.
And what about those drop shots? "Yeah, I used a little bit of it here and there!" Sharapova said. "That's something I've improved. As a player you always try to add a few things here and there. You try to keep the things that make you who you are, but the drop shots seem to be working well, too."
By beating Pennetta and improving to 3-0 in the Red Group, Sharapova is through to the semifinals. And she brings Radwanska - who scored the 500th match win of her career earlier in the day - with her.
"I didn't have a great result here last year, but as I left the court I won my last match, a really tough three-setter against Radwanska," Sharapova said. "Even though I didn't make it to the semifinals last year I was proud I won my last match. That gave me energy, and now I'm back 12 months later."
In the semis, which take place Saturday, Sharapova, who finished No.1 in the Red Group, will play No.2 from the White Group, while Radwanska, the Red Group No.2, will play the White Group No.1.
? WTA (@WTA) October 29, 2015