Sun, Sep 10, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Sharapova shines to set up final date

AT LAST The young Russian beat Amelie Mauresmo at the fourth attempt and made it to her second grand slam final after overpowering the world No. 1 in three sets

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates her win over Amelie Mauresmo at the US Open in New York on Friday.



There were no bananas but a brace of bagels on Friday when Russian Maria Sharapova dismantled the World No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo to reach her first US Open final.

Former Wimbledon champion Sharapova rolled over Mauresmo with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-0 win to post her first career victory in four tries over the reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion.

Sharapova finished the match the way she started, needing just 24 minutes to win the first set 6-0 and 25 minutes to easily bagel Mauresmo again in the third.

"It was tough to get broken in the last game of the second set, but I hung in there and just kept going," said Sharapova, who had to be reminded by her volatile father Yuri to eat a banana to keep her strength up in the middle of her quarter-final match. "I'm not done yet. I'm thrilled to be in the final."

The 19-year-old Sharapova was to play second seed Justine Henin-Hardenne yesterday for the Grand Slam title.

Five-time major title winner Henin-Hardenne survived a scare from 19th seeded Jelena Jankovic on Friday, posting a 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 come-from-behind win.

Sharapova hammered 20 winners to reach her first Grand Slam final since winning Wimbledon in 2004.

Sharapova hit aggressively from the baseline and had Mauresmo on her heels throughout most of the 1 hour 35 minute match at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"I had a terrible record against Amelie and that ended today," Sharapova said. "I have a terrible record against Justine so hopefully that's a good sign."

Sharapova went to work right away by taking the early break in the first game of the opening set. In a sign of things to come, Mauresmo double faulted and sliced a backhand long.

Bidding to become the first French woman to win a US Open, Mauresmo had a dismal 30 percent success rate on first serves in the opening set and finished with a total of 38 unforced errors.

Mauresmo came to New York on a high after winning two Grand Slams this year but that new-found confidence was nowhere to be found against Sharapova.

The players stayed on serve for the first nine games of the second before Mauresmo got her first break of the match to grab the set 6-4.

In the third set, Mauresmo's earlier problems returned to haunt her as she served poorly and couldn't find an answer for Sharapova's stinging backhand.

Serving for the match, Sharapova opened with a double fault but then came up with another backhand winner to clinch the victory.

The Belgian second seed Henin-Hardenne has made it to all four Grand Slam finals this year but she had to earn this berth as the 21-year-old Serb Jankovic gave her all she could handle.

A heavy underdog going into the match, Jankovic came out with more intensity, surprising the 2003 US Open champ by stepping up her attack on big points.

Jankovic, who advanced further in the US Open than ever before, closed out some long rallies with flash backhands and clinically sliced drop shots which brought cheers from the crowd and a big smile to her face.

But she lost her nerve in the seventh game of the second set when she argued a call with the chair umpire. She was one set up and holding 4-2 lead in the second when she got distracted and failed to win another game in the match.

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