Sun, Oct 07, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Djokovic, Sharapova go through to Beijing final

THEN THERE WERE TWO:Two-time China Open winner Novak Djokovic beat Germany’s Florian Mayer, while Maria Sharapova won in straight sets to face Victoria Azarenka

AFP, BEIJING

Russia’s Maria Sharapova stretches for a shot during her semi-final women’s singles match against China’s Li Na at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing, China, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Novak Djokovic brushed aside Florian Mayer in the China Open yesterday to set up a final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, as Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka made it to the last two of the women’s event.

The world No. 2 from Serbia furthered his aim of finishing the year top of the ATP rankings with a simple straight-sets victory, maintaining his unbeaten record at the Beijing tournament which stretches back three years.

Top-seed Djokovic defeated the 29th-ranked Mayer of Germany 6-1, 6-4.

The 25-year-old, second to Roger Federer in the rankings, has won the China Open on the two occasions he has entered — in 2009 and 2010 — and will aim to make out three-out-of-three against France’s Tsonga today.

Tsonga marched into the final when Spain’s Feliciano Lopez retired during the second set of their match.

The world No. 7 thrashed Lopez 6-1 in the first set and was 4-1 up in the second, when the left-handed Spaniard called it a day, citing an injury to his left wrist.

“I played really well and I felt really good on the court,” Tsonga said. “I didn’t know before he was a bit injured. I’m just happy today with my game.”

The Frenchman has enjoyed an easy progression to the final of the Beijing tournament since needing three sets to overcome Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin in the first round.

The 27-year-old received a walkover in the second round, after Nikolay Davydenko withdrew and beat Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets in the third.

“During this week, my level has got better and better,” Tsonga said. “I have played maybe some of my best tennis here. I haven’t played like this in couple of months and maybe a couple of years now and that’s why I think I can win the final tomorrow.”

In the women’s draw, Sharapova overcame home favorite Li Na in straight sets.

The 25-year-old Russian defeated Li, Asia’s only Grand Slam winner, 6-4, 6-0, to reach the final for the first time in five attempts, but it took the French Open champion a while to break into her stride.

Li sped to an early 3-1 lead due to some poor serving by Sharapova, including three consecutive double faults in one game, but the Russian fought back, winning three games in a row before taking the set with a break.

“It was a really high-quality first set with a few ups and downs and obviously she [Li] had the lead,” Sharapova said.

“In those first few games I thought my percentage of first serve was low. Against someone like Li Na, who likes to step in and take the ball early, I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to have to hit too many second serves. My goal after that was just to get my first-serve percentage much higher than it was in the first three or four games,” she added. “I came back and then I broke her in that last game of the first set. It was important for me to take that momentum going into the second.”

And continue her momentum she did, taking six games without reply to steamroll Li — who has never won her home tournament — in little over half an hour.

“She had a better performance than I did and she had better control of the match, but I think I played pretty well today,” Li said.

World No. 1 Azarenka from Belarus beat ninth seed Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-2.

“I felt the first set was really close and could have gone either way,” Bartoli said.

“Vika [Victoria] is probably the best returner in the game and it’s not like I was serving badly. She was breaking me because she was returning too well and that’s why I couldn’t win the points,” the world No. 10 added. “Maybe she could have missed one or two, but she didn’t. That’s the way it is.”

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