Sat, Feb 03, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Sharapova sees off Japan's Sugiyama

AFP , TOKYO

Russia's Maria Sharapova acknowledges the crowd following her victory against Japan's Ai Sugiyama in the Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament in Tokyo yesterday. Sharapova won the match 4-6, 6-0, 6-1.

PHOTO: AFP

World No.1 Maria Sharapova struggled with her serve again before beating Japan's Ai Sugiyama in three sets to reach the Pan Pacific Open semi-finals yesterday.

The Russian top seed, who hit 17 double faults in three sets on Thursday, committed another 14 double faults before finally seeing off Sugiyama 4-6, 6-0, 6-1.

In the semi-finals today, Sharapova will take on fifth seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, who eliminated her compatriot and fourth seed Jelena Jankovic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

The other semi will be a re-match of last year's final between Swiss former world number one Martina Hingis and defending champion Elena Dementieva of Russia.

"I felt worried about my serve too much in the first set. That was the reason for me not being aggressive enough. Obviously some part of my game was off and in this tournament it's my serve," Sharapova said.

"But I thought I did a good job just focusing on what I have to do, even if I gave her many free points off my serve," she said. "I played enough matches in the last couple of weeks. Getting into a Grand Slam final [at the Australian Open] definitely gave me some confidence," said the US Open champion.

The Russian failed to keep a service break up in the beginning as she hit her third double fault on a break point to be pegged back at 3-3.

She hit another double fault to go to deuce in the 10th game, allowing Sugiyama eventually to take the set with an excellent backhand down the line.

But that turned out to be Sugiyama's best moment as Sharapova dominated the rest of the match.

Meanwhile Hingis needed only 42 minutes to beat Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-0, 6-1, while Dementieva whipped Italy's Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-2.

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