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TENNIS > Sharapova to face Li Na in last four encounter

Sharapova to face Li Na in last four encounter

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Maria Sharapova’s biggest challenge to achieving her second Australian Open title, apart from Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams, could actually be between her ears.

Not that anyone has managed to exploit any mental deficiencies in the world number two... yet.
The Russian not only continued her perfect run in Australian Open quarterfinals on yesterday by swatting aside Russian compatriot Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-2 to set up a semifinal against Li Na, she also set a record at the grand slam.

With her 66-minute victory, Sharapova has now dropped just nine games in total, the fewest number conceded by a semifinalist at the tournament.

Monica Seles conceded 12 games on her way to the 1991 semifinals. Seles went on to win the title.
The world number two, along with defending champion Azarenka and 15-time grand slam winner Williams, have been a class above the rest of the women’s draw at Melbourne Park with few now expecting anyone other than the trio to win the title.

Sharapova has refused to get too far ahead of herself, dragging out the “one match at a time” cliche after each round, though she said after her demolition of Makarova that she was pleased she was staying mentally switched on during matches despite their one-sided nature.

“That’s always one of the toughest things, keeping that focus, especially when you have when you feel like you’re doing the right things and you have your opponent in the right position,” Sharapova said.

“You really have to follow through with what you’ve done and keep doing it (and) keeping your head in the right direction.”

China’s Na earlier showed she had the legs to go the distance when she reached her third semifinal in four years at the Australian Open with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

Radwanska had come into the contest on a run of 13 successive wins but looked underpowered as she was bludgeoned into submission by Li in their tight 102-minute contest.

There were 10 service breaks in the 21 games and Li grabbed six of them to set up a contest against second seed Sharapova.

Comeback victory for Ferrer


Also yesterday, David Ferrer stared defeat full in the face three times but staged an epic comeback from two sets down to beat fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro and reach the semifinals.

The fourth seed looked to be heading for the exit when, having been dominated by some brilliant play from the 10th seed for the first two sets, he faced Almagro serving for the match at 5-4 in the third.

It is not for nothing that Ferrer is known as one of the best fighters in tennis, however, and he hustled along the baseline to claw his way back into the contest and take the third set on Rod Laver Arena.
Twice more Almagro had chances to serve out for victory but he blew them both and Ferrer, who had won all 12 of their previous meetings, emerged a 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-2 winner after three hours and 44 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

“It was a miracle I won this match,” said Ferrer, who will face Novak Djokovic or Tomas Berdych in the last four.

“I tried to fight and do my best (but) next round... I need to play my best tennis, better than today. Now I will need to rest but I have a day and a half.”

January/22/2013

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