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Sharapova to face Henin in Dubai

Maria beat Davenport while the Belgian prevailed over Kuznetsova to set up the final to be played on Saturday.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 17:12 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Maria Sharapova, who did her chemistry homework during the seven-hour break between matches, and Belgium's Justine Henin-Hardenne will face each other in the final of the WTA Dubai Openon Saturday.

Russian third seed Sharapova beat American Lindsay Davenport, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 and Henin beat Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 7-5 after an exhausting day when they also had to play their quarter-final matches because of Thursday's rain delays.

After gaining a revenge, 6-3, 6-4 win over Switzerland's Martina Hingis in the afternoon, Sharapova alleviated the boredom by doing her on-line studies for her high school degree.

She then came out and beat defending champion Davenport in a match which finished close to midnight to set up a clash with Henin, whose win over Kuznetsova, the former US Open champion from Russia, extended her unbeaten run in the Dubai Open to 14 matches in three tournaments.

"The chemistry was mentally difficult and the match physically difficult," said the third-seeded former Wimbledon champion Sharapova.

It was also difficult to analyse. Davenport took the first four games and broke Sharapova's serve four times out of five to win the first set; Sharapova took the next four games and didn't drop serve at all to win the second.

The third was more closely-contested although the rallies were usually short, both players employing clubbing ground strokes behind heavy serves, committing themselves to making the first big blow whenever possible.

Davenport broke for 2-1, but Sharapova broke back at once, and as the 104-minute match neared its climax, the 19-year-old was the one who was moving her feet better and preparing more comfortably for most of her shots.

Davenport's downfall came after she served a double fault at 3-4 to go 30-40 down, and a good Sharapova return combined with two strong drives completed the match-winning break.

"I played against two totally different opponents in a day and that also made it very tough," commented the former Wimbledon champion, who earlier had a revenge win over Hingis for a defeat in Tokyo the week before last.

This match was far closer than the score suggests, with Hingis getting great support from a full house of 5,000, holding a point to break back to 4-4 in the first set, and another to reach 5-5 in the second.

It was full of fascinating rallies between the great baseline attacker and the great baseline counter-puncher, with both women more willing to come to the net than they used to be. But Hingis was dissatisfied with her performance.

"I came up short with just about everything at the beginning and at the end," she reckoned harshly. "Because I had beaten her (in Tokyo) I had the mental edge. You could tell she wasn't confident about playing me again. I made too many mistakes."

Earlier in the day, Kuznetsova ended Australian Open champion Amelie Mauresmo's 16-match unbeaten run.

The Frenchwoman's stunning run included her first Grand Slam victory and three successive titles, but even though the top-seed was surprisingly beaten 7-6 (11/9), 6-4 by her unseeded opponent, she looks certain to become world number one again in a couple of weeks time.

Mauresmo's two-hour defeat took place over two days, and the timing of the weather disruptions may have made it harder for a tired body which was given the challenge of another tournament this week only at the last moment after the Williams' sisters belatedly withdrew.

In the other quarter-final matches, Henin had beaten Italy's seventh seed Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) and second seed Davenport had beaten Russia's Maria Kirilenko 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

First Published: Feb 25, 2006 14:15 IST