Saturday October 4th, 2014

BEIJING, China -- No. 4 Maria Sharapova held off a second-set charge from Ana Ivanovic to win 6-0, 6-4 and advance to the China Open final where she'll play No. 3 Petra Kvitova. The winner of Sunday's final will take over the No. 2 ranking ahead of Simona Halep. 

Sharapova reeled off the first seven games of the match before Ivanovic was able to make it a match. With a strip of hot pink kinesio tape on the back of her left hamstring, Ivanovic wasn't the dynamic mover she was in the last match these two played at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati over the summer, which she won in three sets. She got a walkover from Halep in the quarterfinals but still felt flat before the match and blamed it on the residual effect of an emotional few weeks following her Tokyo Open title and the news of her qualification for the WTA Finals this week for the first time since 2008. 

"When I made [the WTA Finals] for first time in Madrid, Doha, I took it a little bit for granted," Ivanovic said. "You understand the season is long, you played lots of matches, you fight for it.  To achieve something that's been my dream for a while, it's amazing."

But this match wasn't about Ivanovic being off her game. Sharapova imposed herself on the match behind aggressive hitting and big serving. The Russian served nine aces in the match, an incredibly high yield for her in a two set match, though she also served eight double faults. She finished with 21 winners to 17 unforced errors, while Ivanovic managed 11 winners to 18 unforced errors. Ivanovic struggled to handle her pace and angles off the ground. "She definitely played bigger today, I felt," Ivanovic said. "Even when I played some good tennis, she came up with amazing shots. She was really staying closer to the baseline and she was very aggressive today."

"She was the more aggressive player last time which didn't help me very much," Sharapova said. "I was always on defense. Today I felt that I really was the one kind of going for it, making her move."

Ivanovic had chances to level the third set. With Sharapova serving for the match at 5-4, Ivanovic earned four break points but couldn't convert. It looked as though she did get the break on her fourth break point of the nine-minute game but Hawkeye showed Sharapova's backhand landed just in:  

"I was happy with the challenge," Sharapova said. "Those are the ones where you're like, Okay, I like the challenge system." Two points later, Sharapova sealed the victory to move to 9-4 against Ivanovic. Theirs has been one of the best rivalries on tour this season, having now split their four meetings. 
 
"It's been few years now that we are rivals," Ivanovic said. "In 2007 and '08 it was a little bit more, then it subsided a little bit. Now it's getting to that point again. It's exciting. I think in women's tennis, we need this kind of rivalry."

Ivanovic is scheduled to play both Linz and Moscow over the next two weeks but having already qualified for Singapore her schedule may change. She will fly to Linz and make a decision on whether to play from there. 

Petra Kviotiva beats Sam Stosur to make the final

Kvitova sealed her spot in her third final in her last four tournaments earlier in the day, needing three sets to beat Samantha Stosur 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. The Czech overcame a bout of fatigue and dizziness after a fitful night of sleep to get the win. She is now 14-1 in her last four tournaments and will try and extend her unbeaten streak in finals this season, which currently sits at 3-0.

"I'm not really focusing on the number," Kvitova said, when asked whether the No. 2 ranking will weigh on her mind on Sunday. "It's just number before my name. More important for me are results on the big tournaments and on the Grand Slams, as well. So tomorrow I will play for the title, not to be No. 2."

 

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