Sharapova claims place in Championships final

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MADRID, Nov 10 (Reuters) Maria Sharapova claimed her place in her second WTA Championships final today with an emphatic 6-2 6-2 win over fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze at the Madrid Arena.

Sharapova, who won the prestigious end-of-season tournament in 2004 and reached the semi-finals of the last two editions, will meet either defending champion and world number one Justine Henin or Serbian Ana Ivanovic in tomorrow's final.

The 20-year-old's season has been disrupted by a succession of injury problems and she was unable to defend her titles in Zurich and Linz because of a shoulder complaint.

She has been in impressive form in Madrid this week, however, and powered to victories over world numbers two and four Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ivanovic on her way to the semi-final.

''It's pretty incredible because if someone told me about two weeks ago that I was going to play the Championships I would have been just happy to play,'' said Sharapova. ''To be here is great and to be in the final is even better.'' Chakvetadze, who had lost all five of her previous official encounters against Sharapova, made a confident enough start but began to falter in the third game, double faulting to gift her opponent a break.

Sharapova pressed home her advantage with another break in the fifth after a fine passing shot and a pin-point return on to the baseline.

The former world number one, who won the tournament on her debut appearance as a 17-year-old in 2004, wore her compatriot down as she stretched her across the width of the baseline and took the set 6-2.

Chakvetadze grew increasingly frustrated and surrendered her serve once again at the start of the second set after another double fault and could do nothing to stop Sharapova easing into a 4-0 lead.

Both players had five break opportunities in the match but Sharapova took four of hers while Chakvetadze was unable to take any.

REUTERS RAR RAI2130

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