Key Biscayne, Florida. Long before Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon at age 17 to become a star in women’s tennis, she dreamed of winning the Sony Ericsson Open.
Sharapova, 24, now has three Grand Slam titles and 24 career wins, but she is still chasing her first Sony Ericsson title.
After Thursday’s 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Caroline Wozniacki, Sharapova will have her fourth chance to win one of the most high-profile tournaments outside the four Grand Slam events.
“I’m happy that I gave myself another chance,” said Sharapova, who failed to win a set in finals losses in 2005, 2006 and 2011.
“It would just be meaningful to me because I have come to this tournament for so many years, even since I was a young girl. I have always just dreamed of playing on this court, let alone being in the finals of it.”
On Saturday afternoon, Sharapova, the No. 2 seed, will face No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska, who defeated No. 7 Marion Bartoli, 6-4, 6-2, in the other semifinal on Thursday.
A day after she ended No. 1 Victoria Azarenka’s 26-match unbeaten streak, Bartoli had 35 unforced errors and failed to hold serve once during the loss to Radwanska, who is 1-7 in her career against Sharapova.
As an 11- or 12-year-old, Sharapova and her family began to make the four-hour drive across Florida from Bradenton, where the Russian-born Sharapova had trained at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy since she was 9.
“It was pretty much the only tournament I would come to as a spectator and watch Marcelo Rios and Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Monica Seles,” she said. “We came every year.”
These days, tennis fans come to see Sharapova, known for her in-your-face power game.
Sharapova hopes that a happier ending awaits her this weekend, one in which she is holding a trophy that she has always wanted to lift.
‘’It would just be really meaningful to me,” she said.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic advanced to the men’s semifinals, beating No. 5 David Ferrer 6-2, 7-6 (1).
Djokovic is seeking his third Key Biscayne title and second in a row. His opponent on Friday will be No. 21 Juan Monaco, who beat No. 8 Mardy Fish 6-1, 6-3.
In the other men’s semifinal, Rafael Nadal will face off against Andy Murray.
NY Times, AP