Sharapova battles to reach final

Agence France Presse

Wimbledon, July 1:

Russian teenager Maria Sharapova became the second youngest woman in the Open era to reach the Wimbledon final when she launched a stunning fightback to defeat former champion Lindsay Davenport of the US 2-6, 7-6, 6-1. The 17-year-old recovered from a set and 3-1 down to pull off a win to set up a Saturday final showdown against either Serena Williams of the US or Amelie Mauresmo. It was a memorable fightback by the Russian girl who was completely outplayed by the 1999 champion in the first set and a half and had the rain not forced the players off Centre Court with the 28-year-old Davenport leading 2-1 in the second set, Sharapova may well have quickly capitulated. Davenport dominated from the outset breaking her 13th seeded opponent in the first game and again in the seventh before wrapping up the first set in just 25 minutes.

In the opener, she gave up just six points on her service. It was more of the same in the second set with Davenport, playing in her 45th career Grand Slam tournament. The Russian, who showed occasional flashes of her ability then had to fight off another break point to go 1-2 down. The tie resumed almost an hour later and, after falling 1-3 down, Sharapova eventually converted only her second break point to pull the set level at 3-3 and to kick-off her fightback.

With her trademark grunt now operating at maximum volume, she held off a break point to go 6-5 before Davenport took the set to a tiebreak but the Russian seized her chance to level the tie on her third set point after 80 minutes. By this stage, Sharapova was well on top.

Davenport, runner-up in 2000, was broken in the opening game of the final set when she hit an untidy forehand long and then slipped 2-0 behind in the next game. The teenager served to love to go 5-1 and capped her fightback and clinched victory after 1hr 53min when a hopelessly dispirited Davenport hit long.