Magical Maria Destroys Ana in Madrid
MADRID, Spain - On the final day of round robin action at the 2007 Sony Ericsson Championships Maria Sharapova outlined her championship credentials with a dominant performance against Serbia's Ana Ivanovic. The straight-set win sees the No.6 seed come out on top of the Red Group and consequently she will meet Anna Chakvetadze in the semifinals, while Ivanovic faces the daunting prospect of a clash with reigning champion Justine Henin.
Sharapova has been in impressive form all week long and she roared into top gear on Day 4 to leave Ivanovic's 100 per cent record in tatters. The young Russian served supremely throughout, failing to concede a single break point and after just one hour, 10 minutes on court wrapped up a 61 62 triumph, in arguably the performance of the tournament to date.
"I thought I was solid from the beginning," Sharapova explained. "I was just glad I could be out here in Madrid and play some more matches this year. I'm not really thinking about my chances, I know what I'm capable of on the court so I don't worry about who I play as if I perform well then I know I'll be fine."
With Sharapova and Ivanovic having already qualified for the final four, pride and Sony Ericsson WTA ranking points were the only things at stake in the day's final match between Svetlana Kuznetova and Daniela Hantuchova. It was the Russian who made the brighter start of the two, easing into a 3-0 lead, but it was not long before her opponent achieved parity and with no more breaks in the opener, the set meandered towards a tie-break.
There was little to separate the players in the tie-break itself, but Kuznetsova was punished when she wasted her fifth set point at 7-6 as Hantuchova reeled off the next three points to take the set and with it the crucial psychological advantage. The 24-year-old Slovak capitalized on her rival's disappointment by taking 15 of the first 17 points in the second set and soon after secured her fourth break of the match to wrap up a 76(7) 60 victory.
Tuesday's other match also featured two players already eliminated from the tournament as France's Marion Bartoli and Serbia's Jelena Jankovic dueled it out for third place in the Yellow Group. After her painful defeat to Chakvetadze on Thursday evening the 22-year-old from Belgrade looked lethargic from the outset, dropping her opening service game and barely half an hour later the set as well. Bartoli is only competing this year because of Serena Williams withdrawal with a left-knee injury and Jankovic's decision to retire with a viral illness whilst trailing 16 01 saw her record her first victory at the season-ending showpiece.
"I've been suffering from a viral illness the last couple of days and it's been difficult to breathe properly," Jankovic said. "This makes it tough to play tennis and I wasn't able to play anywhere near the normal level I'm capable of. I've had an amazing season and I'm very proud of what I achieved. It's just unfortunate what's happened here, but I'm really looking forward to my vacation, recovering and preparing for next season."
An action packed schedule of play on Saturday sees both the singles and doubles semifinals set to grace the Recinto Ferial Casa de Campo. The day's opening match pits the No.2 doubles seeds, Ai Sugiyama and Katarina Srebotnik, against Chinese Taipei's Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung, before Chakvetadze and Sharapova commence their all-Russian encounter. This will be followed by reigning champion Henin's clash against Ivanovic, before the match-up between the top seeds, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, and the in-form Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs brings proceedings to a close.