Ivanovic Advances as Sharapova Retires in Tokyo

Posted on February 3, 2007

A busy few weeks caught up with world No.1 Maria Sharapova on Saturday as the Russian teen was forced to retire midway through her semifinal at the $1.34 million Toray Pan Pacific Open.

Sharapova, the runner-up last week at the Australian Open and the 2005 champion here, was trailing No.5-seeded Serb Ana Ivanovic 61 01 when she pulled out with a left hamstring strain. The 19-year-old, who regained the world No.1 ranking on Monday, had called for the Tour's primary health care provider at the set break and was able to play just one more game before retiring.

"I started to feel the tightness at the Australian Open but this was not the same pain," explained Sharapova. "After six or seven matches in 14 days, you're bound to be sore, but suddenly it was a sharper pain. I was serving and when I pushed off and then landed, I really felt it.

"The pain didn't get any better, but I tried to continue. I couldn't push off on my serve and couldn't return as well, which is tough because those are the two most important shots.

"The physio told me that it usually takes about seven to 10 days to recover. I was hoping the pain would settle, but against a top opponent like Ana, you're not going to get away with too many things."

"It's unfortunate that she had to retire; it's not the way I like to end the match," said Ivanovic. "However, I felt confident during the match; I was able to play aggressively, which is very important against Maria. You don't want to give her much time."

Prior to the retirement, Ivanovic had displayed impeccable serving, firing three aces and not facing a break point in the abbreviated, 33-minute encounter.

"During the off-season, I worked on my serve because it needed improvement," added Ivanovic. "I also worked on my upper-body strength; I'm happy to see the results already."

Ivanovic advances to her second Tier I singles final, and she'll meet the woman she defeated to win her first. No.2 seed Martina Hingis, a four-time former champion here and runner-up last year, fell to Ivanovic in the Montreal final last August. On Saturday Hingis gained revenge for her 62 60 loss to Elena Dementieva in the 2006 Tokyo final, dominating the 70-minute rematch with a 64 63 win.

Despite dropping serve three times in the match, Hingis broke No.3-seeded Dementieva's delivery five times to reach her eighth final here.

"I knew I was up to the challenge and could hold my own today," said Hingis. "I got off to a great start and felt I couldn't miss in the first set. I was happy to win and get more than two games compared to last year.

"This is my eighth appearance in a final here, and I'm really excited about it. I think right now, I share the record for most titles here with Lindsay Davenport, and I hope to break that record tomorrow."

"She was playing very solid, very consistent," said Dementieva, who won the biggest title of her career here last year. "She played smart, as usual. I made too many unforced errors and didn't take advantage of the short balls. I couldn't come to the net. She was playing better in the longer rallies today.

"I was getting angry with myself during the match because I wasn't playing the right way against her. I didn't go for winners and got into long rallies, which is what she likes. I was playing the way she wanted me to play, and I couldn't do anything to change it."

Hingis will again be looking for revenge in Sunday's final against Ivanovic.

"Tomorrow, I have nothing to lose. She beat me the last time we played, but she'll have to play well and so do I. Ana is definitely a solid player. She has some ups and downs, but she's Top 15, young, and I know we're going to see more of her. This surface suits her, and she seems to playing really well here."

"She's very good on this court," noted Ivanovic of Hingis. "I played her once in Montreal and won. I'm definitely excited about this match, especially because it seems as if I improve with each match."

The doubles final will see top seeds Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur take on a regular rival, Rennae Stubbs and her first-time partner, American teen Vania King.

Raymond and Stosur outclassed Gisela Dulko and Meilen Tu, 62 64, while King and Stubbs won a close encounter with No.2 seeds and reigning Wimbledon champions Yan Zi and Zheng Jie of China, 75 46 76(3).

In last year's final, Raymond and Stosur defeated Stubbs and Cara Black, 62 61.