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Tennis | WTA

Maria Sharapova © Gallo Images

Sharapova to meet Azarenka in Miami final



Maria Sharapova reached her first final in more than seven months and looked back to her best with a 3-6 6-0 6-2 victory over Germany's giant-killing Andrea Petkovic at the Sony Ericsson Open on Thursday.

The former world No 1 will face Victoria Azarenka in Saturday's final after the Belarusian defeated third seed Vera Zvonareva 6-0 6-3.

Azarenka reached her second final in Miami after her breakthrough victory in the final here, against Serena Williams, two years ago. The 21-year-old can expect a tough battle against Sharapova, who is looking in top form.

"She is playing well, she is a tough opponent, no matter when or where, I am looking forward to it," said Azarenka.

"I know how she plays, she knows how I play so it will be a real battle. I haven't to let her dictate the play, the way she likes."

After losing the opening set, Sharapova suddenly turned the match around, completely overwhelming her opponent with the kind of devastating form that took her to the top of the world rankings four times between 2005 and 2008.

Petkovic faded quickly and was unable to reproduce the brilliant tennis she uncorked in her wins over the current world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki and the former rankings leader Jelena Jankovic.

EXPLOIT WEAKNESS

Petkovic was troubled by a rib injury but said that was not the reason for her lacklustre display against a ruthless Sharapova.

"The champions, they just feel any kind of weakness," Petkovic said.

"Even if you're not showing it or you think you're not showing it, they just feel it. That's what makes them so much better.

"I really think she felt it and she went for it and she exploited it. That's what she has to do."

Sharapova is currently ranked 13th in the world after returning from a long injury layoff but is assured of a place in the top 10 next week.

She has not won a WTA title since Strasbourg in May last year but her health and fitness has been steadily improving and this will be her fourth final since then. The Russian has also previously played in two finals at the Sony Ericsson Open, losing them both.

"I feel like I'm finding my form," the 23-year-old said.

"I really felt like with many matches and staying healthy that I would feel better and my (fitness) would start coming back to me and my tennis as well.

"I feel that that's playing out really well."

Azarenka utterly dominated the first set, winning 82 percent of first service points and leaving Zvonareva covering her face with a towel as her coached talked to her during the interval.

It was a more solid display from the Russian in the second set but she was never truly close to beating Azarenka, who now has a chance for her second title in Miami.



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