The world’s top female players, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, will battle it out for the number one ranking when they meet in the Madrid Open final, today after both came through their respective last-four matches in straight sets.
Current number one Williams sealed her place in the Spanish capital for the second consecutive year as she overcame seventh-seed Sara Errani 7-5, 6-2.
Meanwhile, Sharapova will compete in her first Madrid final after beating Serbian Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-3.
Williams was first to book her place in the final as she edged a close first set when she broke in the 12th game, before comfortably taking the second to progress in just over 90 minutes.
Williams satisfied with performance
And the 15-time Grand Slam champion was happier with her performance against the Italian than the error-strewn display she produced against Spanish wildcard Anabel Medina Garrigues in the quarter-finals.
“I feel that I played well,” said Williams. “In the second set I made a few less errors, which was something that I needed to do.”
The 2012 Madrid champion said she believes she is the world’s best player and is dead set on retaining her status as number one to prove it.
“I try not to pay too much attention. I always just try to play my game. You’re playing players who you know their strengths and weaknesses. Obviously I love being number one. In my heart I feel I’m number one, but also I love to win tournaments.
“So I think if I just win as many tournaments as I can then I’ll continue to be number one.” Sharapova, though, has the chance to dethrone Williams at the top of the rankings should she manage a first victory over the 31-year-old in nine years.
The French Open champion has yet to drop a set this week and after a tight start she began to unleash her powerful ground strokes with some authority towards the end of the first set, culminating in a second break of serve which allowed her to take it 6-4.
Ivanovic responded by breaking straight away in the second, but Sharapova roared back and broke in consecutive games to turn the set around and ease into her fourth final in her last four events.
Sharapova ready to end hoodoo against Williams
Sharapova believes she is ready to end her hoodoo against Williams when they meet in the final.
Sharapova has not beaten Williams since 2004, losing 11 straight matches against the 15-time Grand Slam champion in that period.
However, she has taken encouragement from their last meeting in Miami earlier this year when Sharapova took the opening set.
“I thought I played really well at a good level against her in Miami for the first set and a half,” she said afterwards.
“That’s not enough obviously, the goal is to keep that level for the whole match. Of course it’s always tough against her. I haven’t had a win against her in a long time, but the great thing is that I’m setting myself up in a position where I can try to change that around.”
Nadal romps into final
In the men’s draw, Rafael Nadal cruised into his seventh consecutive final since returning from a seven-month injury layoff as he beat compatriot Pablo Andujar 6-0, 6-4.
World number 113 Andujar was blown away in the opening set, winning just nine points, as Nadal broke three times to take it 6-0. The 11-time Grand Slam champion was given a slightly tougher test in the second, but needed just the one break to go 5-4 up before serving out the match.
Murray becomes another casualty
However, there was bad news for Andy Murray as he became the latest big name to fall as he was beaten by sixth-seed Tomas Berdych 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 in the quarter-finals.
The world number three paid for his gruelling encounter Gilles Simon less than 24 hours earlier as he lacked the requisite energy to cope with the Czech.
Murray’s defeat means that all three top seeds have been knocked out after the earlier dismissals of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2013.