Sharapova, Jankovic on course for Pan Pacific final showdown

TOKYO: Maria Sharapova breezed past Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic to keep on course for a potential final against Jelena Jankovic at the Pan Pacific Open yesterday. The Russian former world number one, champion here in 2005 but unseeded this time around, shrugged off a service break down in each set before scoring a 6-4, 7-5 victory to advance to the semis.

Sharapova, who lost the opening game after a double fault, hit an easy forehand winner at the net to make it 4-4 in the eighth before taking the following two games and the set.

The 22-year-old again struggled with her serve in the second set, relying instead on a number of sizzling winners from Benesova’s second serve.

Seventh seed Serb Jankovic, another former world number one, powered her way through to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Marion Bartoli, putting an end to her match-losing streak against the French 14th seed.

“Sometimes I dropped service games but I held many of them, and broke her serve a couple of times. I thought I did quite well,” said Jankovic, reducing her record against Bartoli to 4-5.

“She is a good returner. Sometimes I hit good serves, but she broke back and used my power. So I tried to hit so hard first serves and mixed it up at times, which was the difference today. I put pressure on her when I was returning,” she added.

In the semi-finals today, Sharapova will play either Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland or Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia, while Jankovic will meet the winner of the tie between China’s Li Na and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. —    AFP

Jankovic and Bartoli traded breaks three times each and Jankovic managed to pull of one more in the 10th game to take the first set.

Bartoli soon found herself 0-3 down and then 1-5 in the second set, but fought back to break Jankovic in the seventh game for 2-5 and then 3-5, but Jankovic took a commanding 40-15 lead in the following game.

Bartoli charged to the net on a short ball to fire a forehand winner on the first match point but her backhand return betrayed her on the following point to surrender the match. — AFP

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