Dominant J.J. faces Sharapova in Pan Pacific final
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:46
Former world No.1s Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic will face off for the Pan Pacific Open title in Tokyo.
Unseeded Russian Sharapova, returning to world-beating form after shoulder surgery in 2008, was worked hard before posting a 6-3 2-6 6-4 win over Agnieszka Radwanska, while Jankovic overpowered Na Li 6-4 6-3 at the $2 million event.
“I expect a very tough match,” Sharapova said afterwards. “Jelena is a very solid player, a great mover, so it will be a very physical match. I’ll have to fight for every point.”
Sharapova, looking to land her first title in 18 months, took the first set with a crushing backhand off a Radwanska second serve as she dominated the Pole on return.
But the russian has struggled with her serve since returning to action earlier this year, and a double-fault that handed Radwanska a 5-2 lead in the second set allowed Radwanska to level the match.
Sharapova slipped 0-2 down in the decider before her greater experience and trademark desire shone through in the final stages of the match.
The 2005 Tokyo champion dropped two match points on her serve in the next game but sealed victory at the fourth attempt with a blistering backhand return cross court.
“I missed those match points by a hair,” said Sharapova afterwards. “I knew I had to keep going for it and I did. I was able to step it up. I’m one win away now and I have to lay it all on the line.”
Jankovic, who finished 2008 at the top of the world rankings, had too much firepower for Li who did her best to give the Serbian a match.
“My tennis is coming back,” said the world No.8, who will need to overturn a record of 5-1 in her meetings with Sharapova. “It’s been a very tough year but I believe in myself.
“I haven’t played Maria for a long time and I don’t really know how she’s playing. But I still have a chance to win my third title this year which is pretty good.”
In the doubles, Ai Sugiyama and Daniela Hantuchova beat Gisela Dulko and Nadia Petrova 7-6(4) 7-5 to advance to the doubles final.
The 34-year-old Japanese, who will retire after the event, will bid to finish her career in fairytale fashion against Alisa Kleybanova and Francesca Schiavone, who beat top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber 7-6(5) 6-3.