2005 NASDAQ 100 Open
MARIA SHARAPOVA v VENUS WILLIAMS
Maria Sharapova beat Venus Williams 6-4 6-3 on Thursday to march into the Nasdaq-100 Open final.
The 17-year-old Russian will play either Amelie Mauresmo or Kim Clijsters in Saturday's final. They play later on Thursday.
"At this point I don't care who I play," said Sharapova, minutes after beating Williams. "I'm in the final and I feel fantastic."
Sharapova edged out the tightest of first sets when errors began to creep into Williams's game as she served at 4-5 down.
"I was serving a little bit better in the first set and then she made a few errors in that game," said Sharapova. "From that point on I gained a lot of confidence."
Sharapova went from strength to strength in the second, breaking Williams to go 2-0 up and she remained ahead until she served for match at 5-3.
Only then did the Russian begin to show any signs of self-doubt.
In a long and dramatic ninth game, Sharapova was forced to save her first breakpoints of the match as Williams fought to stay in the tournament.
Eventually, after an hour and twenty minutes, Sharapova watched Williams's final shot sail long on her third match-point and fell to her knees in relief and triumph.
"I think we both of fought to the end," said Sharapova. "So many points were so big. I'm a big competitor and I love to fight. Everyone is hungry and everyone wants to beat me so I know that I have to be that way if I want to win."