Saturday, October 6, 2012
Azarenka vs Sharapova in China Open final
Victoria Azarenka beat Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-2 at the China Open to set up a final against Maria Sharapova, who crushed Li Na 6-4, 6-0.
Azarenka was tested in the first set by Bartoli, but ran ahead to a 5-1 lead in the second set.
But Bartoli refused to allow Azarenka to serve out the match in the seventh game even though the Belarussian held a match point. Bartoli broke serve on a second opportunity when Azarenka hit a forehand long.
Azarenka took advantage of her next match point on Bartoli's serve in the eighth game.
"We had an excellent match at the US Open. It was that stage of a tournament where both of us really wanted to win," Azarenka said. "Tomorrow is going to be another case like that, fighting for the title here. Anything can happen in a final. Maria's an excellent player and a huge fighter as well - we all know that.
"To have somebody like Maria in the final is a privilege."
Sharapova needed 68-minutes to secure the first set. The Russian finally went ahead when Li, serving at 4-5, sailed a forehand long on a second set point in the 10th game.
The Russian needed only 33 minutes to take the second set, winning 25 of the 34 points played.
"It was a really high quality first set with a few ups and downs, and obviously she had the lead in that set, but I came back," Sharapova said. "There were a few key moments to that set, and after I broke her in the last game, it was important to take that momentum into the second set and keep going.
"Li Na has so much experience. She's a Grand Slam champion. You know it's going to be difficult, and she can play high level tennis and come back. So it's important to keep a high level as long as you can when you play against her."
"I came into this tournament not playing extremely well in Tokyo, and I had a couple of days of practice here," Sharapova said. "I really wanted to do well and get to the final stage of this tournament, because I hadn't been to the finals here. I'd played a few times, and skipped last year because I was injured.
"So I was hoping from the first round I'd really step it up and get better - and I feel as the tournament has gone on I've been playing and moving better."
Despite the loss, Li was happy with her week.
"I was happy to be in the semis of the China Open because last year I didn't do well, and also it's the only big tournament in China, so I really wanted to show the Chinese how good I can play. Today I tried my best on the court, but Maria was just better than me.
"Now I'm looking forward to the WTA Championships and also to next year."
AP Photo/Andy Wong