Tennis: Sharapova grinds out first win but exits Finals

Reuters, Friday 24 Oct 2014

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova, of Russia, runs after a shot by Sabine Lisicki, of Germany, during the third round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, in New York (Photo: AP)

Maria Sharapova recovered from a second-set meltdown to record her first victory at this year's WTA Finals with a 7-5 6-7(4) 6-2 triumph over Poland's Agnieszka Radwanksa on Friday but the Russian still bowed out of the elite eight-woman tournament.

After losing her opening two White Group round robin matches, Sharapova needed to win in straight sets to stand any chance of advancing to the semi-finals as well as maintaining her pursuit of Serena Williams' number one ranking.

The Russian looked poised to keep her side of the bargain when she roared into a 5-1 lead in the second set but ran into a wall called Radwanska with the Pole returning everything Sharapova threw at her to save three match points and reel off five straight games.

Sharapova held a nervy service game to send the second set into a tiebreak and with her booming forehands suddenly unable to find their range, Radwanska ended her opponent's interest in the tournament when she claimed the breaker 7-4.

For Radwanska, winning the set was crucial when Caroline Wozniacki battered Petra Kvitova 6-2 6-3 in the final White Group round robin tie later on Friday to send the Pole through to the semi-finals along with the Dane despite owning a 1-2 record.

Wozniacki had won her previous two matches and was already guaranteed a last four berth, yet she looked as hungry as ever in her victory over Kvitova, the Czech Wimbledon champion bowing out with a 1-2 record but with fewer set wins than Radwanska.

"It's so great to finally get a win in Singapore, I really wanted it today as it was so tough in that second set. We have always had tight matches and today was no different," Sharapova said in a courtside interview.

Incredible defence

The first set was an edgy affair with neither player able to hold serve in the first four games before Sharapova got the better of another three-game run of broken serves to close out the opener in a little over an hour.

Confident and finding the paint with her booming forehands, the Russian appeared to be racing through the second set at 4-0 and 5-1 but Radwanska showed her incredible defence and fighting spirit to even the match from an almost impossible position.

Sharapova took a short break before the deciding set and returned looking more determined than ever, seizing the momentum with a booming forehand down the line in the sixth game to open a vital 4-2 lead as she went on to close out the three-hour, 12 minute contest with her 32nd forehand winner.

Wozniacki has enjoyed a resurgent second half to the season, reaching her second U.S. Open final in the process, and carried that form to Singapore with impressive wins over Sharapova and Radwanska before taking apart the dangerous Kvitova in 70 minutes.

Both sets followed a similar pattern with the Dane getting broken early before recovering with three breaks of her own in the first and two in the second to take a spotless 3-0 record into Saturday's semi-finals.

"It feels so great, I have been working extremely hard and it's paying off now. If feels so great to be back among the elite," Wozniacki, whose surge in form appears to have coincided with her training for next month's New York City Marathon, said.

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