Italy’s Flavia Pennetta stunned former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova 6-2 4-6 6-3 in the semi-finals of the LA Championships on Saturday.
Pennetta, the 10th seed, will meet Samantha Stosur in the final after the Australian used her big serve to overwhelm Romanian teenager Sorana Cirstea 6-3 6-2.
Playing her eighth match in the 12 days, three-times grand slam champion Sharapova clearly lacked energy as the match wore on and squandered a 3-1 lead in the third set thanks to a litany of double faults and sloppy errors.
“I didn’t feel fresh,” said Sharapova, who double faulted 16 times and had 61 unforced errors, compared with 23 from Pennetta. “I was surprised it went to the third and I had my opportunities, but I couldn’t close it out.”
Pennetta played an aggressive match, rarely giving ground even when Sharapova tried to force her off court with big groundstrokes.
“To play against her I have to be very aggressive and in the second set I started to wait for her mistakes and that’s why the match changed so much,” said Pennetta, who also reached the LA final last year before falling to Dinara Safina.
Playing in her sixth tournament since returning to the tour in May following shoulder surgery, the 22-year-old Russian was heartened by her week overall, but knows she has a long way to go before regaining championship form.
“It’s almost like new territory for me,” said Sharapova, who hasn’t won a title since April last year. “With every tournament I feel physically I’m getting better and getting a good sense of the court, but it’s still a work in progress.”
In reaching her first final of the year, Stosur nailed seven aces and won 85 percent of her first serve points.
Top seed Andy Roddick will face holder Juan Martin Del Potro in the final of the Washington Classic after overcoming a 20-ace barrage to oust fellow American John Isner 6-7, 6-2, 7-5.
Del Potro earned a shot at winning his second title of the year by wearing down Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez in oppressive afternoon heat 7-6, 6-3 in the other semi-final.
“It will be tough,” Roddick said of yesterday’s final against Del Potro. “You know what you’re going to get from him. He plays at a high level every day. That’s why he’s sixth in the world.”
Roddick, bidding for his fourth Washington title, managed only nine aces but never lost his serve during the match against the 80th-ranked Isner.
After losing the first set in a 7-3 tiebreaker, Roddick broke Isner in the first and seventh game of the second to set up the decider.
Serving at 5-5 in the third, Isner played several loose points to surrender the break to Roddick, who duly pounced, serving out the match to love.
“I started feeling a little bit tired in that second set,” Isner said. “Then I caught my second wind in the third. It was kind of a battle. But eventually he got to me.”
World No. 5 Roddick, playing in his first event since reaching the Wimbledon final last month, paid tribute to his lower-ranked opponent.
“John made me play my best tennis of the tournament tonight ... Anything less than that probably wasn’t going to get it done,” he said.
Del Potro won despite landing only 47 percent of his first serves in a battle where both players visibly struggled in the steamy conditions.
“It’s difficult when you see the other player tired, but I was tired too,” the second-seeded Argentine said. “I just focused on winning my serve. It was tough. We don’t have many matches with this weather.”