STUTTGART: Maria Sharapova hopes to claim her first title of the season in today's Stuttgart claycourt final against top seed Victoria Azarenka following her semi-final win over Petra Kvitova.
In Saturday's last four tie, World No 2 Maria needed just under two hours to see off Petra to claim revenge for her defeat in the 2011 Wimbledon final and secure a 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) victory.
Having lost to World No 1 Victoria twice already in the three finals she has contested this season, the Russian is hoping for fourth-time lucky today with US$115,000 (RM350,000) plus a new sports car on offer for the winner.
Maria broke her Czech opponent in the fifth game in the first set and the 11th of the second, after Petra had earlier missed a chance for a set point, before the World No 3 broke back.
Maria failed to serve out at 6-5 up as the second set went to a tie-break when the Russian held her nerve having raced into a 3-0 lead and said she is looking forward to facing Victoria in the final.
"She is really confident this year and is the one to beat, I am really looking forward to the match," said Maria .
Maria will claim the 25th title of her career if she beats Victoria and said her semi-final win was hard earned.
"It was extremely close and I am just glad to get through," said the Russian.
"She's a very powerful hitter and hits it really low, you have to stay down and be aggressive."
Victoria booked her place in the final with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska.
It was the fifth time this year Victoria had beaten the Pole having already seen off the World No 4 on hardcourt in Sydney, at the Australian Open, Doha and Indian Wells.
It was their first meeting on clay, but Victoria needed just 24 minutes to blitz Agnieszka to take the first set as the Polish No 1 managed just 11 points.
In the second, the Belarusian kept up the pressure with an impressive selection of shots, but despite claiming her tenth overall victory over Agnieszka in just 77 minutes, Victoria insisted it had been far from easy.
"I think she is such a good player that I have to step up to beat her, I think she brings the best out of my game," said Victoria .
"We had some good rallies and I was just trying to stay in control of the game." AFP