Steely Sharapova reaches final

Steely Sharapova reaches final
By Reuters

01/07/2004 at 10:39Updated

Russian beauty Maria Sharapova has stormed into the Wimbledon final at the age of just 17, beating Lindsay Davenport 2-6, 7-6, 6-1 on Thursday. She became the second-youngest Wimbledon finalist since tennis turned professional, and she'll face on Saturday

The Siberian-born teenager, who left her homeland for Florida as a seven-year-old, became the first Russian since Olga Morozova in 1974 to reach the final.

In the open era only Martina Hingis, who won the title in 1997 as a 16-year-old, has played in a final at a younger age than Sharapova's 17 years and two months.

"I don't know what to say, I'm going to cry right now."

Davenport won the last of her three grand slam titles in Melbourne four years ago and at 28, her relative lack of mobility was exploited by Sharapova in a contest lasting one hour 52 minutes.

A lengthy rain-disruption just after the start of the second set came to the rescue of Sharapova, who had earlier appeared overawed at playing in her first major semi-final.

"I just kept believing in myself and somehow I tried to find a way to turn it around," Sharapova added.

Sharapova and Davenport had played just two points before rain forced them to scurry back into the locker room for 30 minutes.

Once they returned, the 1999 champion capitalised on Sharapova's nerves to break in the opening game by forcing the Russian to net a backhand.

Davenport then made her experience count as the Russian struggled to control her spectacular shots.

BATTLING INSTINCTS

But a second rain disruption, this time for 50 minutes, recharged Sharapova's batteries and she came out firing to break Davenport in the sixth game to get back to 3-3.

The Russian's battling instincts kicked in again when she was forced to save break points in the ninth and 11th games, each time with an ace.

Cheered on by the Centre Court crowd, the 13th seed levelled the contest after 80 minutes with a scorching crosscourt winner.

The teenager continued to captivate fans with her attacking play and boundless energy in the decider, forcing Davenport on to the back foot to edge into a 4-1 lead with yet another blistering forehand winner.

With a look of disbelief on her face, Sharapova stood behind the baseline, soaking up the atmosphere before blowing kisses to all corners of the stands.

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