Maria Sharapova moved into her fourth final of the season on Saturday as she fought through a tight second set to overcome Patty Schnyder 7-5, 6-4 at the Acura Classic.
Second seed Sharapova, back in action after taking three weeks off following Wimbledon, stormed through the opening set but found herself in a dogfight with the fifth-seeded Swiss in the second.
The Russian, winner of Wimbledon two years ago, broke to start the second set but struggled to get out of a 15-minute game where she had to save five break points for 2-0. They fought through nine deuces in the marathon game.
All of Schnyder's nine break points came in the hard-fought second set, with the Swiss converting only once as she broke Sharapova as the Russian served for victory leading 5-2.
"I made her run a lot and felt that I had a shot in all of our rallies," said Schnyder. "But by the time I broke her, it was too late."
After that serving misstep, Sharapova steadied to take the win two games later in one hour, 39 minutes.
"I served smart, mixed it up well and didn't try to go for too much," Sharapova said. "Against Patty, you need to be patient. She wants you to go for winners. When I got my opportunities, I took them."
Sharapova lost just six points on serve in her dominant opening set.
"I got a wake-up call when I was down 0-30 on my serve," she said. "But my serve helped me out."
Now 36-7 this year, Sharapova was due yesterday to play for her first title since Indian Wells in March, facing top seed Kim Clijsters.
"My record against Kim is not good (0-4), so I'd love to get a win," Sharapova said.