Sharapova returns to Wimbledon Final; Tsonga shocks Federer in quarterfinals

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A familiar face returns to the Wimbledon finals, as Maria Sharapova beat Sabine Lisicki, 6-4, 6-3 in the ladies’ semifinals Thursday at the All England Club in London. Sharapova, who last made the finals in 2004 when she won her first major, is seeking to go two-for-two in Wimbledon Championships.

Sharapova struggled early and often against Lisicki, netting only 14 winners while racking up 13 double faults and 18 unforced errors. Leading three games to none in the opening set, Lisicki had an opportunity to break Sharapova’s serve but committed one of her 14 unforced errors and sent a backhand drop-shot into the net. Holding serve and avoiding a four-game deficit was just what Sharapova needed to turn the momentum in the match. She rallied to win 12 of the final 16 games, putting Lisicki away down the stretch.

“She played really well and I did quite the opposite,” said Sharapova, seeded fifth. “It was tough. I just had to stay focused. I got back on track and just remained really focused throughout the rest of the match.”

With a victory Saturday, Sharapova would win her fourth major title, including the 2006 U.S. Open and 2008 Australian Open, and her fifth singles title. The seven-year span between Sharapova’s first and second Wimbledon final is the longest stretch between womens finals appearances in the Open Era, ahead of Justin Henin, 2001-2006, and Hana Mandlikova, 1981-86.

In the other ladies’ semifinal, Petra Kvikova reached her first major final by beating Victoria Azarenka in three sets, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2. Kvikova served up nine aces, including three in one game to close out the first set, and 40 winners, while committing only 14 unforced errors.

“All match it was around both serves,” Kvitova said, “so I’m very happy my serve was good in the third set.”

On the gentlemens’ side, the semifinals will not feature Roger Federer for the second consecutive year. On Wednesday, Federer was knocked out by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Heading in to the match, Federer was 178-0 all-time in majors after winning the first two sets. While he required a tie-break to beat Tsonga in the second set, it looked as if Federer was poised for a run at a 17th Major title. However, Tsonga rallied to win the final three sets and beat Federer in a stunning upset.

“I thought my game was plenty good enough this year to win the tournament,” Federer said. “Unfortunately, there’s only one that can win it, and the rest go home empty-handed. That’s what happened to me today. Jo played an amazing match.”

With his sights set on reaching Sunday’s final, Tsonga will have to first beat Novak Djokovic. Friday’s other semifinal will feature Rafael Nadal, who shook off a left foot injury to beat Mardy Fish in four sets, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, against England-favorite Andy Murray, who is playing in his third-straight semifinal and dreams of winning Wimbledon.

Image courtesy Justin Smith via Flickr

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