World number one Serena Williams will meet second ranked Victoria Azarenka in the final of the Brisbane International after she downed Maria Sharapova in an enthralling semi-final match yesterday.
Williams, the defending champion, beat Sharapova 6-2, 7-6 (9-7) in one hour and 43 minutes.
Earlier, Azarenka recovered from a bad first set to beat Serbia's Jelena Jankovic 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Williams and Sharapova have a fierce rivalry on the court, which is matched by an at times bitter relationship off it. They didn't hold back during their semi-final, thrilling the packed stadium with the power and depth of their groundstrokes.
"[I] feel like I'm being pushed into the deep end straightaway," Williams said after the match. "I think it's a good thing."
Both women struggled to hold their serves throughout, although Williams was slightly more consistent, breaking Sharapova three times in the first set while losing hers only once, despite making only 40 per cent of her first serves.
"I think we are both very strong returners, and personally I couldn't get a first serve in today," Williams said. "My first serve percentage was extremely low. I didn't serve nearly as well as I served in my first two matches."
The serving struggles continued into the second set, with three breaks apiece, but both held when it mattered to send the set into a tiebreak. Williams had match points at 6-5 and 7-6 in the tiebreak, which Sharapova saved, but at 8-7 and on her own serve she blasted an ace down the centre line for her 14th consecutive win over the Russian.
Sharapova's pain at losing a 14th straight match to her nemesis will be eased by the thought that she can compete at the highest level again after being sidelined for four months with a shoulder injury.
"I really have to take the positives out of this because I have been struggling for a few months," Sharapova said.
In the first semi-final, Azarenka was all at sea in the opening set as she was swept aside by Jankovic in just 29 minutes.
With her serve misfiring badly, Azarenka looked certain of a quick exit, particularly when she went 0-40 down in the first game of the second set.
But she fought her way back to win that game, and from that point the momentum turned as Azarenka began to find her rhythm and Jankovic started to fade. Azarenka took the second set comfortably then held off a late comeback from Jankovic to win in two hours and five minutes.
Williams and Azarenka have met 16 times on the WTA tour with the American holding a 13-3 advantage. "I think it'll be a really good match to see where we both stand as the two most consistent players of the last year and a half," said Williams
Agence France-Presse, Reuters