Indian Wells, March 22: Maria Sharapova's 2008 unbeaten run ended Friday as the Australian Open champion fell in three sets to second-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semi-finals of the Pacific Life Open.
Kuznetsova defeated the fourth-seeded Sharapova 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 to return to the final of the 5.7 million-dollar WTA and ATP Masters Series tournament for the second straight year. Last year she finished runner-up to Daniela Hantuchova, whose title defense was halted by Sharapova in the quarter-finals.That victory took Sharapova's record in 2008 to 18-0 - a sparkling run that included her triumph in the first Grand Slam of the year as well as a victory in the WTA tournament in Doha last month.
Kuznetsova, 22 and ranked number three in the world, is in search of her first WTA title since New Haven last August, but she booked her third final of the year after reaching the championship match in Sydney in Dubai.
Kuznetsova awaits the winner of the second semi-final between
top-seeded Ana Ivanovic and third-seeded Jelena Jankovic, both of
After dropping the first set, Sharapova gained an early break in the second en route to a 4-1 lead.
Kuznetsova broke back in the seventh game, but Sharapova broke
her again in the final game as Kuznetsova double-faulted on set
Kuznetsova bounced back to break Sharapova's serve in the first game of the third set, and she increased her advantage with a break for 4-1. She served out the 2hr 19min match with a love game.
In the men's side, world number one Roger Federer moved into the semi-finals without firing a shot as his scheduled quarter-final opponent - unseeded German Tommy Haas - withdrew with a sinus infection.
In the semis, Federer will face unseeded American Mardy Fish,
who had to fight his way into the final four.
Fish, ranked 98th in the world, fired 22 aces en route to a 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/4) win over seventh-seeded Argentinian David Nalbandian.
Fish, who has lost all five of his matches against Federer, joked that he hoped the Swiss superstar would be "a little too rested."
The American sweated through two hours and 45 minutes to get past Nalbandian, who fought off two match points in the 10th game of the final set.
The Argentinian then broke Fish to lead 6-5, but was broken back
as he served for the match, giving Fish another chance in the
Fish joined the top three players in the world in the final four.
World number two and defending champion Rafael Nadal will take on number three Novak Djokovic, the reigning Australian Open champion, in the other semi-final, a rematch of their final here last year.