Mon, Mar 20, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Sharapova has game

AP , INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA

Maria Sharapova of Russia eyes a backhand from compatriot Elena Dementieva during the women's singles final of the Pacific Life Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

Maria Sharapova was rock solid in the wind against Elena Dementieva in the Pacific Life Open title match.

The 18-year-old Sharapova, her blonde pony tail whipping in the gusts, defeated Dementieva 6-1, 6-2 Saturday in an all-Russian final.

In the men's semifinals, No. 12 James Blake beat No. 2 Rafael Nadal 7-5, 6-3 to move into the championship match against two-time defending champion Roger Federer. No. 1 Federer cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Paradorn Srichaphan.

The title was the first of the year and the 11th of her career for Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion who lives in Bradenton, Florida.

After Dementieva hit still another backhand into the net on match point, Sharapova beamed, did her ballerina-like waves to the crowd, then blew kisses to the fans.

"It [the wind] was difficult for both of us," she said afterward. "A lot of balls, you didn't know where they were going, especially on the serve.

"On these kinds of days, it's not about playing great tennis; it's about finding a way to win."

Sharapova dominated the match with powerful, well-placed groundstrokes that kept the 24-year-old Dementieva off-balance.

Sharapova ran her record against Dementieva to 4-1, including a 2004 victory at Rome that was her first win against a top 10 player.

There was considerably less wind during the men's matches, which were sandwiched around the women's mid-afternoon final.

Blake's victory over the 19-year-old Spaniard means the tournament won't have a No. 1 vs. No. 2 match for the title, but Blake will go into Sunday's final currently playing the best tennis of any American.

Federer said after his win over Srichaphan that he was pleased with his play.

"It was good, solid, consistent. Really what I was hoping for. Obviously the result was easier than I was expecting," Federer said.

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