Top seed Maria Sharapova reached her third successive Australian Open tennis semifinal with a hard fought 7-6 7-5 victory over fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze today.
Struggling to find her rhythm, Sharapova, 19, was broken twice in each set and her court speed was often exposed by the 12th seed before she prevailed in two hours and 14 minutes of scrappy action on Rod Laver Arena.
"I thought I was up and down, a bit scratchy," Sharapova said after dispatching her third compatriot of the tournament.
"When you're a set and a break up it's still tough, I'm glad I got through."
The warning signs were there early for Sharapova when she fell 0-40 behind in her first service game, but she hit her way out of trouble before Chakvetadze made the first break to lead 4-2.
Three successive breaks followed as both players tried to impose themselves, Chakvetadze looking painfully nervous on some easy putaways while Sharapova's unforced error count steadily went the wrong way, Reuters reports.
Clijsters, who plans to retire at the end of the season, said she would have to be sharp from the start against Sharapova.
"She fights a lot, she's an incredible athlete," said Clijsters. "Hopefully I'll hit a lot less than 62 unforced errors."
Clijsters ended Hingis' remarkable comeback run here in the quarterfinals last year, when the Swiss star was ranked No. 349 and returning from three years off the circuit because of injuries. She also beat Hingis in the quarterfinals at the French Open.
Hingis had won three straight Australian Open titles from 1997-99 and then lost three consecutive finals before quitting the first time.
"It's my most disappointing loss against her," said Hingis, who is 0-4 against Clijsters since her comeback and 4-5 overall.
She used all her experience to mix it up this time against Hingis, drawing her to the net and working her from sideline to sideline, the AP reports.
Sharapov was not the only father/coach in an agitated mood on Wednesday. Chakvetadze’s father/coach, Djambuli, also did little to disguise his mood swings in a different section of the stands.
“It’s normal,” Sharapova said. “I’ve been with my dad every single day, and I’m sure Anna has, as well. They’re both animated. Both want you to win, and they’re really excited for the opportunities you have” the New York Times reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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