Tennis: High-profile Sharapova, low-ley Kvitova in final

LONDON, June 30, 2011 (AFP) - Maria Sharapova, the rejuvenated glamour girl of women's tennis, will take on low-profile Czech player Petra Kvitova in the Wimbledon title showdown after two scrappy semi-finals on Thursday.

Russian fifth seed Sharapova, the 2004 champion, outgunned German wildcard Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-3 while eighth-seeded Kvitova reached her first Grand Slam final with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 win over Belarusian fourth seed Victoria Azarenka.

World number 62 Lisicki, who had stunned second seeded French Open champion Li Na in the second round, was always in trouble after her powerful serve deserted her midway through the first set.

"It's amazing to be back in the final at Wimbledon, it's been a while," a delighted Sharapova said.

"I'm really happy even though I didn't play my best tennis today," added Sharapova, who totted up 13 double-faults during a patchy display.

"To be in the final is a great achievement for me but I still feel like I've got more to do. I hadn't been past the fourth round in a few years. So to be at this stage, I'm just thrilled to have the opportunity to go for it."

Sharapova, who will be chasing a fourth Grand Slam title in Saturday's final, got off to a horrendous start on Centre Court, double-faulting twice in her opening service game as Lisicki surged into a 2-0 lead.

Lisicki, regularly clocking serves timed at 120mph, held to go 3-0 up and soon had Sharapova struggling in the next game.

The Russian favourite saved a crucial break point which would have put Lisicki 4-0 up before eventually holding to remain in touch at 3-1.

From that point on, Lisicki's suspect second serve was always being ruthlessly exploited by the Russian as the German's challenge wilted.

Sharapova wrapped up the first set with her first ace of the match and then stormed to a 5-1 lead in the second set.

The gallant German, whose ranking once slumped to 218 after missing five months of the season last year with a crippling ankle injury, secured a later break in the eighth game to delay the inevitable.

But Sharapova broke again to claim the win leaving Lisicki, only the second wildcard to make the semi-finals, with the consolation of knowing that she will be back in the top 30 on Monday.

Kvitova, the first Czech since Jana Novotna in 1998 to make the title match, is also the first left-hander to reach the the final since her childhood inspiration Martina Navratilova in 1990.

"I saw Martina in the locker room and she wished me good luck. I'm so happy but I don't really believe I am in the final," said Kvitova, whose 40 winners to Azarenka's nine were the foundation of her triumph.

"This is the best day of my life."

Azarenka, who was so disillusioned with tennis earlier this year that she considered retiring, immediately backed Kvitova for the title.

"I think she can beat anybody any day, because right now she has really good game. She's really going for it. She's going to play like this, like she played today, I'm sure she has all the chances to win the next match," she said.

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