Saturday, August 22, 2009

Maria Advances

In Toronto last night, unseeded and former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova defeated 14th-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) to advance to the Rogers Cup semifinals.

After a straightforward victory in the opening set, the Russian-born Sharapova rebounded from an early break of her serve in the second set, eventually winning a hard-fought tiebreaker to take the match. Sharapova battled a few instances of "double-fault-itis," but otherwise looked strong, lithe and beautifully intense. Her previous, most recent WTA victory, in Los Angeles, was over Radwanska's younger sister, Urszula. The Radwanskas are both "ginger kids," and Maria has their number.

Sharapova now faces Alisa Kleybanova in the semifinal round. The unseeded Russian Kleybanova surprised No. 5 seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (9-7), 6-2, in a marathon three-hour match. Jankovic was last year's U.S. Open runner-up and last week's champion in Cincinnati.

After Los Angeles, Sharapova's world ranking moved from #61 up to #49. The tennis goddess, a three-time Grand Slam champ, continues to rehab her way back from rotator cuff problems and once again move into the higher echelons of competition.

Maria blew kisses to her fans after the match, and even managed a little Mona Lisa smile during her subsequent interview with ESPN. She appeared relieved to have finished off the spunky Radwanska, who, like her sister before her, simply could not ultimately compete with Sharapova's blistering forehand.

Say it loud and there's music playing,
Say it soft and it's almost like praying."

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