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Williams make Brisbane final

BRISBANE – Serena Williams proved too strong

for Russian Maria Sharapova as she ground out a 6-2 7-6 (9-7) win today to make the Brisbane International final. The world number one landed just 40 per cent of her first serves, but was more accurate with her groundstrokes, shaking off the dogged Sharapova in the tie-break.

An erratic Victoria Azarenka overcame former world number one Jelena Jankovic 1-6 6-3 6-4 in the other semi-final.

Roger Federer beat Marinko Matosevic 6-1 6-1 to make the men’s last four. The top-seeded Swiss was detained for just over 57 minutes by Australia’s Matosevic and will play France’s Jeremy Chardy next Kei Nishikori of Japan will play Lleyton Hewitt in the other semi-final after wins over Marin Cilic and Marius Copil respectively.

Despite sharing a schedule with perennial crowd favourite Federer and Australian veteran Hewitt, it was the meeting between Sharapova and Williams that was given top billing on the Friday’s order of play by the Brisbane organisers.

Sharapova has not beaten Williams since 2004 and trails 15-2 in their head-to-head meetings, but, after missing much of the second half of 2013 to sort a longstanding shoulder injury, there were plenty of positives for the Russian and new coach Sven Groeneveld.

In their first on-court meeting since exchanging barbed comments on each other’s personal lives last summer, the world number four applied pressure to Williams’s serve, breaking four times, and struck the ball aggressively throughout.

Williams, after cruising through the first set, had to find another gear when she came under pressure at 3-1 down in the second set.

The American met the challenge with deep, powerful returning which reclaimed the break and recovered a second for 4-4.

Sharapova showed that her steely streetwise court craft and steely competitive edge had not been dulled by her absence as she saved a match point in the tiebreak with a shrewd play at the net. But the booming but uncharacteristically wayward serve of Williams eventually proved decisive as she closed out with her seventh ace. (BBC)

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