Red-hot Sharapova downs Jankovic to make Open final
Russian fifth seed Maria Sharapova crushed injured Serbian third seed Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-1 in a one-sided semi-final Thursday to reach her second successive Australian Open final.sports Updated: Jan 24, 2008 17:00 IST
Russian fifth seed Maria Sharapova crushed injured Serbian third seed Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-1 in a one-sided semi-final Thursday to reach her second successive Australian Open final.
It means Sharapova, a losing finalist here last year, will meet either Serbian third seed Ana Ivanovic or Slovak ninth seed Daniela Hantuchova in Saturday's title decider.
"I'm really happy I got through and I'm back in the final," said the 20-year-old, who is on a mission to make amends for last year's humiliating loss to Serena Williams.
"I had the experience going into last year's final and it didn't turn out too good.
"I'm just glad that I've been able to play such good tennis and I hope I can continue that for another match."
Asked if she felt she had unfinished business at Melbourne Park after last year's drubbing, Sharapova replied: "Of course. From the beginning of the tournament, you want to go a step further than you've done in the past."
Sharapova reproduced the stunning form that blew world number one Justine Henin off court in the quarter-finals, leaving Jankovic reeling as the injuries that have hampered the Serb this year finally became too much.
Sharapova's intensity was clear even when the players were forced to wait 10 minutes while the roof of the Rod Laver Arena was closed due to rain, Jankovic jiggling her leg nervously while Sharapova stared at the court.
The Russian held Jankovic to love as she served in the first game, flexing her muscles early as she blasted an ace past her Serbian opponent.
Jankovic, with only a popgun serve to match Sharapova's cannon, relied on her groundstrokes to try to run the Russian around but mistakes proved costly when she netted two returns and went down a break.
The 22-year-old, who brought a range of niggling injuries into her first semi-final appearance at Melbourne Park, then stood rooted to the baseline in the final point of the third game as Sharapova went to the net and made it 3-0.
The massacre continued in the fourth, when Jankovic could only score one point off her own serve, shaking her head in frustration.
She saved two set points in the sixth, finally defending her serve to put herself on the board after 29 minutes and avoid a humiliating 6-0 "bagel".
The Serb's renowned fighting qualities then kicked in and she broke Sharapova and held on to make it 5-3, drawing cheers from the crowd.
But the revival came too late and Sharapova served an ace to reach set point, then sprinted to the net and fired back a Jankovic drop shot to wrap it up after 42 minutes.
The first set statistics showed Sharapova's dominance, the Russian hitting 20 winners to Jankovic's three.
She began the second set in the same fashion, breaking Jankovic in the opening game before the Serb called a medical timeout to receive off-court treatment for a lower back injury.
"It's really sore, I twisted something in there," she told a trainer after going down 3-0 when Sharapova broke her serve again.
The Serb never recovered, managing to win only one more game before finally succumbing to the Sharapova steamroller.