Sharapova meets Ivanovic in a dream final

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{image-ana ivanovic_24012008.jpg www.oneindia.com}Melbourne, Jan 24: Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic is set for a dream final clash at Melbourne.na Ivanovic rallied to the finals after overcoming Daniela Hantuchova in a closely contested game.

The 20-year-old Serb, who will play Maria Sharapova in Saturday's final, lost the first eight games of her semi-final against Daniela Hantuchova but recovered to win 0-6, 6-3, 6-4. Sharapova beat Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-1, taking advantage of a back injury suffered by her opponent to reach her second successive final at Melbourne Park. Ivanovic, who reached the French Open final last year, could do nothing right for the first three-quarters of an hour but Hantuchova, who was playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final, does not have the best of reputations as a front-runner. As Ivanovic came back, the 24-year-old Slovakian's game started to fall apart.

The first set was over in just 25 minutes. Hantuchova was immediately into her stride, while Ivanovic looked nervous and hesitant. With the roof over Rod Laver Arena closed because of rain, the world No 3 had trouble adjusting to the conditions. The underdog's confidence grew as the favourite's waned and was typified when Hantuchova converted her first set point with a confident serve and volley.

Hantuchova broke at the start of the second set, but signs of a Serbian revival were confirmed in the third game when, after 46 minutes of play, Ivanovic finally got on the scoreboard after hitting an inside-out forehand winner down the line.

When Ivanovic levelled at 2-2 it was game on, though she enjoyed a huge slice of luck at game point. The Serb's backhand down the line was going well out until it hit the net post and bounced into court, upon which a flummoxed Hantuchova hit her forehand out.

At 3-4 Ivanovic made a crucial break as Hantuchova double-faulted when serving at 15-40. The Serb served out for the set, which she took with a clever wrong-footing volley.
The first turning point of the final set came when Ivanovic held serve to level at 3-3 after a 14-minute game of seven deuces. At 4-4 Ivanovic played a superb game, running down every shot, and broke serve when Hantuchova missed a simple volley. The Serb converted her first match point in the next game when Hantuchova put a forehand return into the net.

As Hantuchova left the court as quickly as possible, after the most cursory of handshakes with her opponent, Ivanovic thanked the crowd, who have warmed to her over the last fortnight. "If it wasn't for you guys I would be booking my flight back home," she said.

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