Defending champion Maria Sharapova crashed out of the WTA Championships in Los Angeles in Saturday's semifinal, losing to France's Amelie Mauresmo 7-6, 6-3. The Russian appeared to be on her way to her second straight final in the first set when she raced out to a 5-2 lead, but the veteran Frenchwoman began to mix up her attack and confused the 18 year old, who couldn't contend with Mauresmo's high-bouncing topspin or deft low slices.
Toward the end of the set, Sharapova's right pectoral muscle injury began acting up again, and she was never the same after that.
Sharapova fought off a set point at 5-6 when Mauresmo missed an easy forehand return, but in the tiebreaker the Russian's forehand completely broke down as she committed five forehand unforced errors.
Sharapova double-faulted to lose the tiebreaker 7-1.
While Sharapova briefly made a charge in the second set, Mauresmo dictated play while Sharapova flailed on her groundstrokes. Mauresmo won the contest when her opponent erred on an easy backhand.
"It's tough when you are not 100 percent. It's really difficult to play when the injury keeps coming back," said Sharapova, who committed 39 unforced errors in the match. "The tiebreaker was a big give-away. From then on, it was downhill." Sharapova will fall to No. 4 in the world.
The final, to be played early Monday morning Moscow time, is an all-French affair between Mauresmo and Mary Pierce, who conquered Lindsay Davenport 7-6, 7-6 on Saturday."Who would have thought that?" Mauresmo said of the French rally. "It's amazing."
It's the second final-round appearance for both players, but neither has come through a winner. Pierce reached the final in 1997 before falling to Jana Novotna.Mauresmo made it to the final two years ago before going down to Kim Clijsters, reports Moscow Times. I.L.