Crowd's darling cruises through
Sharapova to meet Venus for title after making short work of Chakvetadze
There's one in every crowd.
As scores of press photographers flashed and whirred with every move Maria Sharapova made at the JB Group Classic last night, one brave soul kept his focus firmly on her opponent, Anna Chakvetadze.
No matter to him that Sharapova turns heads, and sells newspapers, everywhere, our man seemed determined to prove everyone else wrong. The story, his actions screamed, is at the other end of the court, and no one but me seems to have realised.
How wrong he ended up being. Sharapova shrugged off early jitters before dispatching Chakvetadze 6-4, 6-3 to move into the final of the exhibition event for the second consecutive year.
Victoria Park's capacity crowd - bar one - was well pleased as the darling of the tennis world moved into the final of the event for the second year running.
Last year she lost to Kim Clijsters. This year she meets world number eight Venus Williams, a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Elena Dementiena in the night's later semi-final.
And tournament organisers could not be happier.
'Just to have another match is the thing,' said the Russian. 'To have a third one here is a bonus. I don't care who I play - I'm just looking forward to playing.'
Sharapova was broken twice in the first four games of last night's first set - but broke back immediately each time. She said she walked away from the match happy that she had learned her lessons.
'The big thing was that I recovered from that and we kept breaking each other for the first four games. You learn from those tough four games and you recover from them and you level your game to where it is supposed to be,' she said.
'I wasn't seeing the ball that bad, I think both of us were just a little bit sloppy on our service games. But more important if you come off the court and you have recovered from that then that's a positive.'
With the Australian Open looming on the horizon in two weeks, the world number five said she was focused entirely on getting her own game right.
'I just focus on what I have to do,' she said. 'All the time I have been here I have been practising and working and I don't have too much free time. Once I am finished I am pretty tired and all I want to do is watch a movie. So I don't have time to keep up with everything that goes on.'
She said she was confident going into today's final, but her game was still being fine-tuned before she heads down to Melbourne.
'I have been constructing the points well, trying to see the ball fast and move in,' she said. 'These are the things I am going to have to do against the top players when I play them. It's a game in progress. I am still working on many things. I feel like I have been on the tour for many years. Every single year, every single match you learn something. And believe it or not you learn more from your losses.'
Music to an out-of-sorts Chakvetadze's ears, if she's listening, as the world number six looked for the most part disinterested and was never really in the hunt.
Earlier in the evening world number nine Daniela Hantuchova pulled out of the tournament with an abdominal complaint.