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Sharapova advances to fifth Miami final

MIAMI (AFP) –

Maria Sharapova serves on March 28, 2013 in Key Biscayne

Maria Sharapova of Russia serves against Jelena Jankovic of Serbia during their semi final match at the Sony Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 28, 2013 in Key Biscayne, Florida. Sharapova, seeking her first title at the Miami WTA and ATP Masters hardcourt event, advanced to her fifth final here on Thursday with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Serbian 22nd seed Jelena Jankovic.

Maria Sharapova, seeking her first Miami title, advanced to her fifth final at the WTA and ATP hardcourt event on Thursday with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Serbian 22nd seed Jelena Jankovic.

Third-seeded Sharapova will play for the crown on Saturday against the winner of a later match between top seed and World No. 1 Serena Williams and fourth-seeded defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska.

“It would mean so much to me,” Sharapova said of a Miami title. “The fans give me so much support here. I love this city. It was the first city I came to in this country when I was a little girl and I would love to win.”

Four-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova lost to Kim Clijsters in the 2005 Miami final, to Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2006, Victoria Azarenka in 2011 and Radwanska last year — all in straight sets.

Not only is Sharapova trying to end her Florida frustration, she is trying to become only the third woman to win both major March events, Indian Wells and Miami, in the same year.

German great Steffi Graf swept the pair in 1994 and 1996 and Clijsters did it in 2005.

“It would be nice, but winning a title, whether it’s here or Indian Wells, is a great achievement on its own,” Sharapova said. “To be able to come back from that, recover in just a few days and come back to the final here, it’s great.”

Sharapova broke Jankovic three times in each set to win her 11th match in a row, ending matters after 63 minutes by breaking the Serb with a forehand winner.

The Russian star reduced the number of double faults from 14 in a quarter-final victory over Italy’s Sara Errani to only three against Jankovic.

“I thought I needed to step it up a lot from my last match,” Sharapova said. “I had a very tough opponent and I had to play much better. I was very happy at the way I was able to focus today.

“Sometimes it’s moments like this where you have to learn from your mistakes and things that you were sluggish about or weren’t executing well enough, and you change that around, so that was my biggest plus.”

Sharapova took the first set in only 34 minutes, taking 12 of 14 points off her own first serves and 12 of 14 more off Jankovic’s second serves.

“Maria played really well. She was playing her tennis from the start,” said Jankovic, who blamed a late quarter-final match Wednesday for her poor effort.

“The opponent plays as well as you let her. From my part, I didn’t do my job. I served poorly. I had a really low percentage of first serves. I wasn’t moving. I felt heavy on the court.

“The schedule was tough. I played three hours last night, so today I wasn’t on the top of my game, and I wasn’t playing the way I wanted to.”

Other later matches at the $8.5 million event send British second seed Andy Murray against Croatian ninth seed Marin Cilic and Czech fourth seed Tomas Berdych against French eighth seed Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals.

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