Sharapova storms into final showdown with Jankovic

TOKYO: Crowd-favourite Maria Sharapova overcame a second-set loss of form to beat Agnieszka Radwanska Friday and set up a final against Serbia's Jelena Jankovic in the Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament.

The former world number one, the winner here in 2005, held her composure to storm back from 0-2 down in the final set to complete a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory over the 11th-seeded Radwanska of Poland.

Earlier in the day Jankovic, another former world number one, overcame an injury scare to beat Asia's number one Li Na of China 6-4, 6-3.

"It's going to be difficult," Sharapova said of her meeting with Jankovic in the final.

"She is one of the best players in the world. She has had a really good tournament. It will be really important to be aggressive and take care of my service games and just play for every point. Hopefully it will be a good match." Sharapova, ranked 25th in the world after her shoulder injury lay-off, suffered a mid-match slump as she overhit her power-packed strokes and lost all of her service games in the second set. After Radwanska squared the match at one-set all, the Russian then found herself 0-2 down in the final set but persisted in attacking Radwanska's second serve to earn return winners on a break point in the fourth and eighth games. Despite dropping two match points in the ninth, Sharapova finished off the match with another return winner on her fifth match point.

Jankovic needed court-side treatment on her right arm at the beginning of the fourth game at 1-2 down.

But the Serbian showed no ill-effects to hit two consecutive winners from the baseline and break back on a Li backhand error which went wide at 15-40 to tie the score 2-2.

Jankovic added another break in the eighth game and, although she needed to save one break point in the following game, calmly served out for the match watching Li's backhand service return go long.

"I started to feel some pains in my arm and felt the balls were heavy, so it was difficult," said Jankovic, ranked eighth in the world.

"I received some treatment and took medicine. I just tried my best, tried not to think about my arm, just tried to fight every point. It was a difficult match overall, but I managed to come out with a win." With the win, Jankovic improved her record against Li to three wins against four defeats.

"I lost to her many times before, but now I won the last two matches. She's a great player, sometimes I think she should be in the top 10, but she had so many injuries," said Jankovic.

"She's a good athlete, she hits the ball really, really well and for me it was very difficult to win today, but I managed to do it," she added.