Sharapova to battle Kvitova in Wimbledon final

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates after defeating Sabine Lisicki of Germany in their semi-final...

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates after defeating Sabine Lisicki of Germany in their semi-final match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London June 30, 2011. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 2:36 PM ET

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND - Former champion Maria Sharapova will take on Czech slugger Petra Kvitova in Saturday's women's final at Wimbledon after both players posted semifinal victories Thursday at the storied All England Club.

The fifth-seeded former world No. 1 Sharapova took care of German wild card Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-3, while an eighth-seeded Kvitova took down fourth-seeded fellow 21-year-old Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 on the famed Centre Court.

Thursday's nightcap saw Sharapova handle Lisicki in 1 hour, 27 minutes, despite a poor serving effort by the Russian. A sloppy Sharapova managed only two aces and piled up 13 double faults. Fortunately for the Russian, the typically-big-serving Lisicki went without an ace and had her serve broken six times by Sharapova. Lisicki would settle for three breaks in defeat.

"I felt like I was just rushing things, my first serve," Sharapova said. "She's someone that has pretty big swings and likes to take charge and hit the ball. I didn't really want to give her too many looks on second serves. I think maybe I overthought it too much."

Lisicki actually jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set, but Sharapova righted the ship in a hurry by winning six of the next eight games to claim the opening stanza, which ended with the first ace from the tall Russian.

Sharapova then dominated in the second, charging out to a 5-1 advantage, which included a pair of breaks against the German.

The Russian star broke Lisicki to close out the match, as she converted on her first match point when the German sent one final forehand long. Sharapova won 12 of the last 16 games to move on.

Sharapova, who also beat Lisicki in Miami earlier this season, is now 5-7 in her career Grand Slam semis, including 2-2 at Wimbledon. The 21-year-old Lisicki was playing in her first-ever major semifinal.

Lisicki fell to 11-1 on grass this year. She titled at the Wimbledon tuneup in Birmingham three weeks ago.

The 24-year-old Sharapova will now appear in her 36th career WTA-level final, seeking a 24th title. She'll compete in her second Wimbledon final and her fifth overall Grand Slam title tilt (3-1).

Sharapova stunned Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final as a 17-year- old.

"I hadn't been past the fourth round in a few years," Sharapova said. "So to be at this stage, I'm just thrilled to have the opportunity to go for it."

The 6-foot-2 Sharapova is a three-time Grand Slam champion who has captured every major event with the exception of the French Open, where she finished as a semifinalist four weeks ago. She titled in Rome earlier this year and was a runner-up to the aforementioned Azarenka in Miami.

The left-handed Kvitova, meanwhile, will play in her first career Grand Slam final.

"I can't say anything, I'm so happy," Kvitova said.

The formidable Czech dictated the play throughout against Azarenka on Day 10, as she smacked nine aces and broke her Belarusian counterpart four times, compared to only one break for Azarenka. The Czech committed twice as many unforced errors (14-7), but also piled up a whopping 31 more winners (40-9) en route to victory.

The first set was all Kvitova, as she took it in seven games in a mere 27 minutes. The Czech then hiccupped in the second, as Azarenka would prevail in rather easy fashion to setup what turned out to be a lopsided third.

Kvitova broke to open the final stanza, then consolidated the break with a hold and didn't look back after that.

The big Czech broke Azarenka to close out the bout, which ended after 1 hour, 44 minutes when the Belarusian double-faulted on Kvitova's second match point of the day.

"I probably could have played better, but when I had chances, she really came up with the good stuff," Azarenka said. "I think she can beat anybody any day, because right now she has a really good game."

The 6-foot Kvitova is now 3-2 lifetime against Azarenka, including wins in their last three meetings. The Czech also topped the Belarusian in a final in Madrid back in May and bested Azarenka in the third round here at the All England Club a year ago.

Kvitova, who is a three-time titlist on the WTA this year, is trying to become the first left-handed woman to capture Wimbledon since her fellow Czech native Martina Navratilova prevailed for a record ninth time back in 1990. Kvitova is also the first lefty to reach the final here since Navratilova in 1994.

"We met in the locker room and she told me well done and good luck for the next match," Kvitova said, referring to the all-time great Navratilova.

Azarenka was competing in her first-ever Grand Slam semifinal, while Kvitova was playing in her second straight Wimbledon final four.

Kvitova will appear in her seventh career final (4-2), including a fifth one already this season (3-1). She was a runner-up on grass at the Wimbledon tuneup at Eastbourne two weeks ago.

The world No. 6 Sharapova and Kvitova have only met once, with the Russian prevailing on a hardcourt in a semifinal in Memphis last year.

Saturday's champion will earn $1.7 million.


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