August 5, 2006

Sharapova battles past Schnyder to reach San Diego final

By Matthew Cronin

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Second seed Maria Sharapova stormed
into her first Acura Classic final with a hard-fought 7-5 6-4
victory over Patty Schnyder on Saturday.

Sharapova moved well, played consistent tennis and served
superbly to reach her first WTA tour final since March in a
match lasting one hour 39 minutes.

"Each point she 100 percent focused and never gives you a
breath," Schnyder told reporters. "She hits a lot of winners
and is a really complete player.

The two fought tooth and nail from inside the baseline with
Schnyder trying to keep Sharapova off her back by mixing heavy
topspin forehands and sharp two hand backhands.

Sharapova played patiently and carefully waited for her
opportunities to attack.

"She feels comfortable moving on hardcourts," Schnyder
said. "She's a tall girl who has a lot of reach. Her serves
were very accurate and she varies the height of the bounce,
which made it hard for me to get a rhythm, especially on the
backhand side."

Sharapova broke Schnyder to 6-5 in the first set when she
laced a forehand down the line winner, and won the set with a
brilliant forehand swing volley.

The 19-year-old Russian immediately broke the Swiss to open
the second set with an inside out forehand return of service
winner, and broke her again to 4-1 when Schnyder erred on a

The experienced Swiss came storming back, however, breaking
Sharapova to 3-5 with a forehand winner down the line.

Schnyder held to 5-4 but in the final game Sharapova served
big and won a long rally to clinch victory when she forced the
Swiss into a forehand error.

Sharapova has reach the final of all three U.S. outdoor
Tier 1 tournaments she has played this year. She has made at
least the semi-finals in all but one of the nine tournaments
she has played.

"I served smart," Sharapova said. "I mixed it up well.
Against her, you have to be patient. She makes you go for
winners and in some games I went for a little too much, but
other than that, I made her move, played smart and when I got
my opportunities, I took them."

Sharapova will face the winner of the second semi-final
between top seed Kim Clijsters and seventh seed Nicole