Sharapova and Azarenka face off for final spot
Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka set up a mouth-watering French Open semi-final yesterday with hard-fought wins in their quarter-finals.
The defending champion Russian, seeded second this year, survived a nightmare start to hold on to her crown for at least another day with a 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over tough Jelena Jankovic in a compelling quarter-final tie.
World number three Azarenka, meanwhile, reached her first semi-final at Roland Garros when she defeated friend and former doubles partner, Maria Kirilenko of Russia, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.
Sharapova and Azarenka have played each other 12 times with the Belarusian 7-5 ahead, although it will be their first meeting this year.
Sharapova was all over the place for a set and 30 minutes in her match against Jankovic, but with the exit beckoning, she steadied her nerves enough.
"She played such a great match from the beginning and was very aggressive," Sharapova said. "I knew after the first set that I had to change things around. I just had to erase the chapter and move forward."
Australian Open winner Azarenka hadn't faced anyone inside the top 30 en route to the last eight and that lack of sharpness was evident as the first set lasted a marathon 76 minutes. Once Azarenka pocketed that, it was plain sailing.
"Maria is such a great competitor and it was a really tough start," said Azarenka. "But I am really happy to get through to my first semi-final in Paris at the third time of asking."