Share this article

print logo

Pep talk leads to Sharapova win Russian will face Jankovic in final

A pep talk got Maria Sharapova turned around and headed into a title match.

After playing a listless first set, Sharapova got inspired by a pep talk from her coach and rolled to a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Vera Zvonareva on Saturday night that clinched a spot in the finals of the Western & Southern Open.

She'll play 13th-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, who beat Andrea Petkovic, 7-6 (4), 6-1, in the later semifinal.

The fourth-seeded Sharapova was completely off her game in the first set, barely able to score points against the world's second-ranked player. Coach Thomas Hogstedt gave Sharapova an animated courtside talk, and she took over the 2-hour, 2-minute matchup of Russians.

"I didn't do a lot of talking," Sharapova said. "He talked most of the time. I called him over because I felt I just needed a little energy. Something was missing in the first set."

Sharapova will be trying for her second tournament title this season -- she also won in Rome. Last year, she reached the finals in Cincinnati and lost to Kim Clijsters.

"I love playing on this court," she said.

The women's bracket in the U.S. Open tuneup tournament was wide-open because of injuries and an early upset.

Clijsters withdrew with strained abdominal muscles -- she also dropped out of the U.S. Open, where she's won the last two titles. Venus Williams had to skip the tournament because of a virus. Sister Serena Williams dropped out on Wednesday because of a sore toe. And third-seeded Victoria Azarenka dropped out with a hand injury.

With Clijsters out, Caroline Wozniacki became the top-ranked player. She lost her first match.

As a result, the four players who reached the semifinals have a combined four tournament wins this season, Zvonareva with two of them. She didn't need to do much to get ahead early on Saturday.

Sharapova's game was out of kilter at the start. She repeatedly missed routine shots, got broken twice and fell behind, 5-2, while winning only 11 points in those first seven games.

She tried to get some momentum, repeatedly pumping her left fist when she made a few shots and broke Zvonareva's serve to keep the set going. Not for long -- Zvonareva broke her back to finish it off.

During the break, Sharapova asked for a consultation with Hogstedt, who gave her a little pep talk, repeatedly pumping his left fist.

Jankovic will try for her first tournament title since Indian Wells last year. It's only her second final of the season -- she was a runner-up at Monterrey.

On the men's side, Andy Murray overcame a pair of break points late in the second set, then another in the tiebreaker, beating American Mardy Fish, 6-3, 7-6 (8), to advance to the final.

Murray will face top-seeded Novak Djokovic, who advanced when Tomas Berdych withdrew from their semifinal because of a shoulder injury.

There are no comments - be the first to comment