Sharapova set to defend title in Stuttgart

Defending champion Maria Sharapova faces Li Na in final as Rafael Nadal has countryman Nicolas Almagro to contend with.

    Sharapova set to defend title in Stuttgart
    Sharapova (R) kicked opponent to the Kerber in WTA Porsche Grand Prix semifinal in Stuttgart [AFP]

    Defending champion Maria Sharapova came from behind in the third set to beat Angelique Kerber 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 on Saturday and earn a spot in the final of the Porsche Grand Prix.

    The top-seeded Russian committed two consecutive double-faults to drop her serve at the start of the decisive set. But Sharapova won the last eight points and clinched the match when her third-seeded German opponent hit a backhand long.

    Sharapova was pushed to three sets for the third straight match in Stuttgart and wasted a chance to serve out the match in the ninth game after taking a 5-3 lead.

    "I like it quick and easier but the great thing is I got through them"

    Maria Sharapova

    "I like it quick and easier but the great thing is I got through them," Sharapova said.

    Sharapova will play second-seeded Li Na, who defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 6-3, for the title in the indoor clay-court tournament on Sunday. 

    After winning in Stuttgart last year, Sharapova went on to take the French Open title as well. But she would not draw parallels between the two seasons.

    "It's too early to talk about the French Open and I don't like to compare different years. You play different players, different conditions, but you can build confidence if you have success on the same court," the Russian said.

    Sharapova, ranked No. 2 in the world, is looking for her second title of the year after winning in Indian Wells. She would be the first player to defend her title in Stuttgart since Lindsay Davenport in 2005. Sharapova now has 15 straight wins on clay.

    Next final for Nadal

    Also on Saturday, seven-time winner Rafael Nadal beat Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-0 to reach the Barcelona Open final.

    After the semifinal was delayed for rain, Nadal overcame an early break and dominated the rest of the way, with Raonic's big serve proving no match for his all-round game.

    The fifth-ranked Spaniard will play countryman Nicolas Almagro in Sunday's final after he defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 6-1 to reach his second clay-court final of the year.

    Nadal has won 38 straight matches on the Real Club de Tenis' outdoor red clay and has reached six straight finals - winning three - since returning from a seven-month injury layoff due to tendinitis in his left knee. His eight-year winning run at Monte Carlo ended last weekend when he lost in the final to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

    His last loss at the Barcelona Open came 10 years ago to Spain's Davis Cup captain, Alex Corretja.

    Raonic started strong and broke Nadal to love to go up 2-0 after having struck two aces in his first service game.

    But after that initial misstep, Nadal wouldn't give up a single break chance while converting five of 11 to ease past his rival.

    Nadal finished off the first set with a slam after wearing Raonic down with a series of his left-handed drives to work his way to the net.

    The Canadian crumbled and Nadal cruised to his third victory in as many meetings with Raonic, who ceded the decisive point by hitting wide. 

    Almagro will play his first final at Barcelona after falling in his two previous appearances in the semis.

    He dominated Kohlschreiber, striking nine aces and breaking the German four times while not allowing him one chance to steal his serve.

    Almagro threw both hands into the air when Kohlschreiber's final return fell into the net.

    The fourth-seeded Almagro lost his other clay-court final this season to John Isner in Houston.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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