Sharapova reaches final despite string of errors
Favourite Maria Sharapova served 13 double faults in just 87 minutes yet still set up a Wimbledon final against Petra Kvitova after beating Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-3 in an error-strewn semi-final on Thursday.
The Russian fifth seed, who won the grasscourt grand slam in 2004, slipped 3-0 down to the German wildcard in the first set but found her groove as her opponent battled with nerves.
In truth neither player ever really got going, a combined count of 32 unforced errors telling the tale of a match that barely captivated a far from full Centre Court as mobile phones went off towards the end.
Sharapova will not care given she had not reached the final since her 2004 triumph.
"To be in the final again is a great achievement for me. I haven't got past the fourth round in quite a few years," she said.
The 24-year-old Sharapova will need a better performance to prevail against Kvitova but will fancy her chances against the Czech eighth seed in Saturday's showpiece.
Image: Maria Sharapova of Russia waves to the crowd after winning her semifinal round match against Sabine Lisicki of Germany at the Wimbledon in London
Photographs: Getty Images
Lisicki was good, but not good enough
Several spots of rain fell in the second set, Lisicki pausing briefly to enquire whether it was safe to continue, but the showers stayed away and play continued.
"She played really well and I did quite the opposite," the Russian said in a televised interview.
Image: Sabine Lisicki
Kvitova makes final
Eighth-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova showed the greater will, ambition and control of her nerves to overcome Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in a topsy-turvy encounter at Wimbledon on Thursday as she reached her first grand slam final.
The Czech, a beaten semi-finalist last year, dominated the first set but then lost her way as the Belarussian fourth seed took the second in her first grand slam semi-final appearance after four previous last-eight defeats.
Kvitova, however, continued to go for her shots and came back strongly to take the third and become the first left hander to make the Wimbledon women's final since Martina Navratilova, present at Thursday's match, in 1994.
"I can't say anything, I'm so happy," said Kvitova.
Kvitova -- who beat Azarenka last year during her unexpected run to the semis when she was ranked 62nd -- was far more aggressive throughout the first set, going for the lines and taking risks while Azarenka was content to wait for errors.
It proved a successful tactic for the Czech, who took control and finished it off in style with three successive aces, chalking up the first set after only 27 minutes of action.
Image: Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic reacts during her Women's semifinal against Victoria Azarenka
'I probably could have played better'
In the second set Azarenka finally began to display the form that has brought her so much success this year and lifted her to fourth in the world rankings, while Kvitova's radar suddenly went awry and her game became littered with mistakes.
It was a tense encounter with the crowd struggling to lift themselves but they had a moment of light relief when Azarenka, assailing their eardrums with her trademark screech, complained to the umpire about noise from a nearby errant alarm.
Oblivious to the irony, she got over the distraction and, having broken for a 2-0 lead, cashed in on Kvitova's ragged shots to level the contest between the two 21-year-olds.
Kvitova, bidding to be the first Czech in the final since Jana Novotna in 1998, got herself together again for the third set and took advantage of some poor Azarenka serving to break for a 2-0 lead.
The Belarussian's big chance to hit back came when she was 3-1 down and her opponent was 15-40 on serve but Kvitova, who served solidly through the final set, saved the break points and won the game.
Kvitova missed her first match point when a return, not for the first time, floated long but she won it on her second courtesy of an Azarenka double fault.
Azarenka had few complaints about the result and said she felt Kvitova had a chance of another upset in the final.
"I probably could have played better but when I had chances, she really came up with the good stuff," she said.
Image: Victoria Azarenka of Belarus walks off the court after losing her Women's semifinal match against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic on Day Ten of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships