Sat, Mar 30, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Williams sets up Sharapova duel

CHALK AND CHEESE:The US’ Serena Williams is trying to claim her sixth title in Miami, while Russia’s Maria Sharapova has been a losing finalist four times previously

AFP, MIAMI

Russia’s Maria Sharapova lunges for a return against Jelena Jankovic of Serbia in their Sony Open women’s singles semi-final in Key Biscayne, Florida, on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

Five-time champion Serena Williams wasted no time booking her berth in the WTA Miami final by steamrolling Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-3 to set up a title clash with third seed Maria Sharapova.

Russia’s Sharapova, a four-time runner-up in Miami, was equally dominant as the newly-crowned Indian Wells winner hammered Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-1 in the other semi-final on Thursday.

“I am excited because I am in the final,” Williams said. “It definitely felt really good today. I kept my unforced errors rather low. I definitely didn’t start out the best. A lot of things in my head were going crazy. Slow and steady hopefully wins the race.”

The 31-year-old Williams blasted 12 aces and won 83 percent of her first serves in the 65-minute match against fourth seed Radwanska of Poland.

Williams is bidding to become just the fourth woman in the modern era to win the same event six times, joining Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova. Evert is the only player over 30 to win the title, doing so at the age of 31 years, 2 months in 1986.

Sharapova is in her fifth final in quest of her first Miami title.

“It would mean so much to me,” Sharapova said. “The fans give me so much support here. I love this city. It was the first city I came to in this country when I was a little girl and I would love to win.”

Four-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova lost to Kim Clijsters in the 2005 Miami final, to Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2006, Victoria Azarenka in 2011 and Radwanska last year — all in straight sets.

Not only is Sharapova trying to end her Florida frustration, she is trying to become just the third woman to win both major March events, Indian Wells and Miami, in the same year.

Graf swept the pair in 1994 and 1996, while Clijsters did it in 2005.

Sharapova broke Jankovic three times in each set to win her 11th match in a row, ending matters after 63 minutes by breaking the Serb with a forehand winner.

In men’s action, reigning US Open and Olympic champion Andy Murray reached the semi-finals by ousting Croatian ninth seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, shaking off two early exchanges of breaks to find his form.

The Scottish second seed, who won the 2009 title and lost last year’s final, will face French eighth seed Richard Gasquet, who surprised Czech fourth seed Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-3.

Murray improved to 8-1 all-time against Cilic, winning five times in a row since the lone loss in the fourth round of the 2009 US Open.

Murray beat Cilic in four sets in last year’s US Open quarter-finals on the way to his first Grand Slam crown.

Gasquet is searching for his first career title in the Miami Masters event. No Frenchman has ever won in the tournament’s 28-year history.

The other semi-final sees third seed David Ferrer of Spain take on 34-year-old Tommy Haas.

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