Shara­pova into Sony Open fi­nal


Maria Shara­pova will face Ser­ena Wil­liams in the fi­nal of the Sony Open while Bri­tain's Andy Mur­ray will take on France's Richard Gas­quet in the men's semi-fi­nal af­ter grind­ing down Croa­t­ian Marin Cilic.

Wil­liams needed just 65 min­utes to deal with fourth seeded de­fend­ing cham­pion Ag­nieska Rad­wan­ska 6-0 6-3, while Shara­pova, who won at In­dian Wells ear­lier this month, de­mol­ished Ser­bia's Je­lena Jankovic 6-2 6-1.

Shara­pova, ex­tended her win­ning streak to 11 matches with a lop­sided win in just over an hour against Jankovic, a former world num­ber one strug­gling to re­gain her best.

De­spite Shara­pova's good form, Wil­liams will start as clear favourite in Satur­day's fi­nal - she is 11-2 in meet­ings with the Rus­sian and has won the last 10 matches be­tween the pair. One of just 10 women who have won all four grand slams, Shara­pova has been col­lect­ing ti­tles all over the world but has never won the Sony Open, played in her home state of Florida, de­spite play­ing four pre­vi­ous fi­nals. "It would mean so much to me," she said in a court­side in­ter­view. "I love this city, it's the first city I landed in when I came to the United States as a lit­tle girl." The sec­ond-seeded Mur­ray fought back from a break down twice in the first set and then grafted his way through the sec­ond to deal with the tall Croat.

"It was a tough, tough match. Sec­ond set es­pe­cially was a lot of long, long games and tough points," said Mur­ray.

"I just man­aged to come through that. Ob­vi­ously I took a while to get to the fin­ish line but I thought I played a solid match with not too many er­rors and was tough in the im­por­tant mo­ments," he told re­porters.

The U.S. Open cham­pion is the high­est seeded player left in the men's draw af­ter world num­ber one No­vak Djokovic lost to Tommy Haas and will leapfrog Roger Fed­erer to sec­ond place in the world rank­ings if he wins the ti­tle. "I'd like to get to num­ber two this week. It would be nice, but I'd rather fo­cus on try­ing to win my matches," said the Scots­man who will fancy his chances against eighth-seeded Gas­quet.

Gas­quet was solid, hit­ting 17 win­ners and break­ing serve three times as he made up for his de­feat to Berdych in the round of 16 at In­dian Wells.

The French­man knows he is the un­der­dog against Mur­ray, who he has lost to four times in seven matches, but be­lieves he is ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing an up­set. "I can win against Andy. He's the fa­vorite, the num­ber three in the world but I know his game, I know how he plays," he said.

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