Maria Sharapova beat Russian compatriot Anna Chakvetadze 6-4, 6-2 on Friday to advance to the final of the JB Group Classic exhibition tournament in Hong Kong _ a warmup for the Australian Open.
Both players struggled at first, dropping their opening two service games. Sharapova finally held in the sixth game to give her a 4-2 lead from where she took the opening set.
World No. 6 Chakvetadze double-faulted to help give Sharapova breaks in the first and seventh games of the second set and a 5-2 lead. Sharapova held again to take the match.
"I was a little slow at the beginning, definitely, but the good thing is that I recovered from that," Sharapova said, adding that she took chances on some second serves.
In the final, Sharapova will meet the winner of Friday's later semifinal between six-time Grand Slam tournament winner Venus Williams of the U.S. and Russian Elena Dementieva. The form of Sharapova, Chakvetadze and Dementieva in the lead-up to the Australian Open _ beginning Jan. 14 _ showed the Russian threat would be strong in Melbourne.
Sharapova said the number of Russians in the top echelons of women's tennis was remarkable because they all trained in different places _ instead of emerging from a single program. "Some of the girls trained in Spain, I trained in the U.S., some stayed in Russia. It wasn't like all of us were together, raised together and ate the same food," she said.