Sharapova eases into fourth Melbourne final

Thu Jan 29, 2015 2:27am EST
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By Greg Stutchbury

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The confidence of overcoming two match points in a second round clash against Alexandra Panova has ultimately paid off for Maria Sharapova as she advanced to her fourth Australian Open final with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Ekaterina Makarova on Thursday.

In that second round match more than a week ago, the 28-year-old Russian realised she had no choice but to stand and deliver against Panova, banging off two forehand winners that kissed the tramlines to prolong her tournament.

Since that moment, the Russian has looked virtually unbeatable, none more evident than on Thursday.

"I thought I played solid," said Sharapova. "I did everything I had to do. I wasn't afraid for it to become a physical match.

"Those key moments are really important (and) yeah, definitely happy I was able to win really solid today."

Makarova, who also reached the last four at the 2014 U.S. Open, had not dropped a set all tournament and her easy win over third seed Simona Halep in the quarter-finals gave her plenty of confidence going into the contest despite her 5-0 losing record against Sharapova.

The five-times grand slam winner, however, used all of her experience to negate Makarova's tricky serve, slow down the tempo on her own serve in swirling wind conditions and barely move beyond the service mark on the baseline.

Makarova's forehand also failed her, undoubtedly due to the pressure Sharapova was exerting on her, but even on the rare occasions when she had the court open and the world number two at her mercy.   Continued...

Maria Sharapova of Russia serves to compatriot Ekaterina Makarova during their women's singles semi-final match at the Australian Open 2015 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 29, 2015.   REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha