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Sharapova sinks Wozniack to enter Miami Final
In Maria Sharapova’s way of reaching her fourth women’s singles final was another former World No. 1 player who was trying to move closer toward reclaiming her perch at the top of the rankings in fourth-seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki.
It appeared that Sharapova would be well on her way to a quick first set victory after leading 4-1, but she dropped the first set with a myriad of costly errors and had to rally back for a sterling 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory in two hours and 34 minutes.
“I'm really pleased that after losing that first one, being up and playing really well and then backing off and her stepping up, I could have easily just went down in the second set,” Sharapova said. “But I really stepped it up again. I went out there and started being aggressive. I didn't stop after I put myself in a good position. I'm extremely pleased that I pulled it out today.”
Sharapova advances to face either seventh-seeded Marion Bartoli of France, who ended Azarenka’s 26-match winning streak in a Wednesday quarterfinal, or fifth-seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska, who has yet to drop a set in this tournament.
Bartoli (17-6 in 2012) and Radwanska (24-4) will meet not before 9 p.m. on stadium Thursday.
Sharapova held a heavy advantage in winners (50 to Wozniacki’s 13), but elongated the match by often beating herself. She committed nearly twice as many unforced errors as Wozniacki (Sharapova had 46 to Wozniacki’s 25.)
An ever-determined Sharapova kept her composure though and provided unrelenting pressure in the critical junctions of the match. She had twice as many break points opportunities and was successful on six of 16 while Wozniacki converted on four of eight chances.
In the third set, Sharapova got her break with a forehand winner that ripped up the baseline to give her a 3-2 advantage.
Sharapova took four consecutive points on Wozniacki’s next serve to go up two breaks, but the Dane immediately returned the favor with four straight points of her own to break back and made it 5-3. After Wozniacki closed to 5-4 on serve, Sharapova held for the win.
Sharapova (18-3 this year) started quickly by breaking Wozniacki in the first game building a 4-1 lead by firing an assortment of rangy forehand and backhand winners that sprayed the entire court.
A golden opportunity was missed when Sharapova earned three break point chances in the third game including a double break point but was unable to convert.
The balance of the match changed momentarily when Wozniacki’s coach and father Piotr approached Wozniacki in between games for a pep talk to discuss strategy.
Wozniacki fought back with a break in the sixth game and converted again in the eighth on the fourth break point of the game when Sharapova hit long. Wozniacki battled back to win five straight games to take the first set 6-4.
“I just kept fighting and just kept playing for every point,” Wozniacki said. “Maria started off really well and played aggressively. She played some good tennis out there. I tried to do my best, and it just wasn't enough today. I was very close. This is tennis. One time you win; one time you lose.”
Sharapova rallied back to close out the second set when Wozniacki’s wayward shot drifted wide.
In the third set, Sharapova created six break point opportunities and converted on two. She faced only one.
“Well, obviously, I mean, she's a pretty big, tall girl,” Wozniacki said. “She has a big reach. You need to play really wide to pass her, and then she plays some really heavy balls and goes in and attacks you if you play short.”