Serena Swats Aside Sharapova; Federer, Nadal Friday Winners; Venus In Auckland Final
by Staff | January 3rd, 2014, 5:25 pm

Serena Williams started strong and then hung on to beat rival Maria Sharapova 6-2, 7-6(7) to reach the Brisbane finals where she’ll play on Saturday Victoria Azarenka in a battle of the top two ranked women’s players in the world.

“The quality of the match was very high, especially from Maria’s end, so it was good for me to come up with a win in that match,” Williams said. “We’re both very strong returners, and personally I couldn’t get a first serve in today. My first serve percentage was really low. I didn’t serve nearly as well as I served in my first two matches. So that obviously played a little bit of a factor during the match today.

“But it was fun. Some of those points were really long and the intensity was so high. Maria was hitting extremely hard and I was retrieving a lot. So was she. My gosh, she was getting so many balls back.”

Serena has now beaten Sharapova 14 straight times to lead overall 15-2 in this series.

Despite the loss, it was still a promising week for Sharapova who playing in her first tournament since a shoulder injury in Cincinnati.

“I had a few missed chances,” Sharapova said. “It was tough being a small break up in that tie-breaker and also missing that forehand just a little bit wide. But overall I was happy I could compete at this level in my third match back. I really have to take the positives out of this, because I have been struggling for a few months. This was a good sign for me. It was definitely a good week and good test for me.”

Azarenka needed three sets to turn away former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Serena leads their rivalry 13-3 but the pair slit four meetings last year.

“It’s a good rivalry,” Williams said. “She’s so intense on court, and off court she’s so cool. So that’s what makes the rivalry the best, is because when you step on the court I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me, and we fight like crazy. When it’s over, it’s over. There’s a lot of mutual respect there.”

Serena has won her last 21 matches and she’s won 15 of her last 17 matches vs. Top 5 players, the two losses coming to Azarenka.

In the Auckland final, after receiving a walkover from Jamie Hampton Serena’s sister Venus will bid for her first title since 2012 Luxembourg as she takes on Ana Ivanovic. Venus has won 8 of 9 against the Serb.

“We all know what Venus is capable of, and she’s been showing some good form this week too,” Ivanovic said. “I’ve struggled with both Serena and Venus in the past. They both have a big serve, and it can be overwhelming at times. But over the years you get used to it and become more calm. There’s no doubt it’ll be a very, very tough match, but it’s a matter of still doing the things I’ve worked on.

“We’ve had some tough matches in the past and I’m really looking forward to that final challenge.”

In the Shenzhen final, Li Na will meet Peng Shuai.

The two biggest stars in tennis are still alive in men’s play this week. Last night Roger Federer rolled into the semifinals of Brisbane with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Marinko Matosevic.

“Tonight I felt very good against Matosevic who can play very dangerous,” said Federer. “He’s got a good enough serve and return as well. But I was able to control most of the match except the very beginning. For that, I’m very happy.”

Next for Federer is a first-time meeting with Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. In the first semifinal Australian Lleyton Hewitt meets second seed Kei Nishikori.

“He plays very aggressive on the hard courts,” said Federer. “I remember seeing him play really well in Cincinnati, which is similar to here. I remember seeing him play well at the Aussie Open last year when he made the quarters, I think. So he can definitely bring a big game to the court, especially with his serve and forehand. He can really dictate play.”

In Doha, Rafael Nadal struggled but survived a strong test from German qualifier Peter Gojowyzck 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

“The positive thing is I am in the finals the first week of the season without arriving here with big preparation,” said Nadal. “Without playing my best, I was able to find a solution. It’s true that I finished the match playing better than what I started. That’s always a positive thing, because that means that mentally I was prepared to find solutions.”

In the final tomorrow Rafa will meet Gael Monfils. The Frenchman who has twice beaten Rafa before both times coming in Doha, eased past Daniel brands.

And in the Chennai final, Stanislas Wawrinka, who collected his 300th career win, will play Marcel Gronollers. The Spaniard Granollers overcame a 5-1 third set deficit to beat Benoit Paire in the semifinals.

“Someone told me before I came to Chennai that I could achieve the milestone this week,” said Wawrinka. “It is special, after a long time on the tour, and I am really happy. I was focused on the match, which was not easy.”

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28 Comments for Serena Swats Aside Sharapova; Federer, Nadal Friday Winners; Venus In Auckland Final

Josh Says:

Serena taking care of business as usual – she always seems to be a little bit extra fired up against Maria.
Rafa – scratchy at times but overall perfect, but it’s great that he got through, and full credit to Gojowyczk for his high level of play.
Roger – very sharp and business-like in his dismantling of Matosevic (who did look a little tired at the end of the 2nd set). Very impressive; he’s timing the ball pretty well, and I look forward to seeing him perform against the very best in Melbourne.
Hope all 3 can seal titles come Sunday!

Ben Pronin Says:

Serena hates Sharapova so much it’s nuts. There’s maybe the tiniest inkling of respect there.

Josh Says:

Sharapova might win a set next time they meet.

Margot Says:

Don’t think Serena “swatted” Maria in the second set. In fact, I thought Maria had made improvements to her game. Her serve seemed better and I even saw her moving forwards and volleying…….crikey!

Gordo Says:

So Federer will play Hewitt in the Brisbane final tomorrow. Later today he plays in the doubles semifinal. Should he and Mahut win Federer will have chance for a singles-doubles crown in a tournament; something he has not done since 2005.

Considering Fed’s age, it is interesting to note that should he reach the finals, he will be playing opponents in both matches (Hewitt in singles, Nestor in Doubles) who are older than him.

Go Fed!

Giles Says:

It seems Brisbane is sporting the oldies brigade!! Lol

Tennis X Hippy Chic Says:

Great to see two veterans of the game rolling back the years and playing superb tennis again,i would give Roger the edge as he seems fresher than Leyton whos been pushed more,but hope its a cracking final,as for Rafa i hope hes dialed in which im sure he will be as Gael has played pretty really well this week,Rafa hasnt played that well this week,but it takes a while for some players to get into their stride at the start of the season,but when push comes to shove hes got the job done in each round and made the final,so all bets are off now.

Tennis X Hippy Chic Says:

Woops sorry made that post before i saw Rogers result,as Roger was pushed by Chardy,i would still give Roger the edge against Leyton in the final though.

van orten Says:

I must say rafa played pretty good this week but those other kids do not lean back . they train hard as well and pushed rafa the way he can be pushed simply more firepower cause rafa tends to play short at times but almost never when it matters. thats winning him the matches most of the times when it is a tight score. I hope for fast courts in melbourne simply to make things less predictable. rafa and nole will be very hard to beat anyways

princessice Says:

Rafa vs Gael 4-0 now. Really hoping Rafa would take his 1st title of the season!

Margot Says:

Didn’t bother to turn up first set,
Showed how good he is second,
Collapsed third.
How sorry I am for Monfils fans…..Sean ;)

Giles Says:

Vamos Champ! Start as you mean to go on!!
And now trophy biting time!! Best part!

Perfect fan Says:

well played rafa….have to feel for monfy though.

rafa is lookin ready for oz open.

Brando Says:

Vamos Rafa!

Great to see him finally winning Doha after Championship Points in 10′.

Good match and excellent workout for Oz.

Good luck Champ!

Slice Tennis Says:

Congrats to Rafa for his 61st title even though this one is just a mickey mouse tournament.
Best part was getting 5 decent matches in before the AO.
Looks to be in good form for the AO.

Tennis X Hippy Chic Says:

Happy for Rafa he played some tough matches this week,and i hope this bodes well for the AO,i did feel for Gael at 3 all deuce in the 3rd set,that ball was out by Rafa which gave him the advantage,shame Gael didnt challenge straight away,would it have made a difference,personally i dont think it wouldve?with all the tough matches Rafa had this week he still found a way through,good luck for the AO Rafa cannot wait.

Tennis X Hippy Chic Says:

Rafa had match points against Davey in 2010 in the Doha final,and ended up losing the match in 3 sets,in a match he shouldve sealed in two,thankfully there was no repeat of that today.

Tennis X Hippy Chic Says:

As for Serena shes picked up from where she left of last season by showing her two biggest rivals whos boss,making a statement ahead of the AO,saying i was the boss when we ended last season and i intend to be the boss this season.

Slice Tennis Says:

The court was fast and Rafa tried to be very aggressive resulting in some errors. Experimented with a lot of offensive shots around the court.

Josh Says:

Congrats to Rafa for another impressive display! Look forward to seeing him at the AO

James Says:

Very happy for Rafa!
Would it be right to say he’s become a better player on hard courts than he ever did? I believe this was his 16th hard courts title. He’s won 5 hard courts titles in last ten months or so.

Didn’t watch the match, saw comments on tennis forums that Rafa’s BH was solid today. Did anyone who watched the match noticed that? If that’s true, he’s gonna be a lot tougher to beat…even for Djokovic.

James Says:

Slice Tennis Says:
The court was fast and Rafa tried to be very aggressive resulting in some errors.
Experimented with a lot of offensive shots around the court.
January 4th, 2014 at 1:55 pm


I’m glad he did. He’s perhaps expecting the courts to be fast in Melbourne this time. His serve, RoS and forehand DTL will be key for him at AO.

Josh Says:

Looks like he will be very tough to beat. Problem is that no one actually knows what the Djoker has been doing in terms of preparation since Abu Dhabi. He’s the real threat at this stage

Slice Tennis Says:

Rafa’s FH was sharp and as you mentioned his BH was on fire, especially BH DTL which is very very rare from him. Even on his best days he would play more of BH CC, but today he was just changing directions at will with BH DTl, BH CC, FH CC and FH DTL. His serve was not firing though, I guess he may be holding it back a little for the AO.

Slice Tennis Says:

Joker is the only threat for Rafa. But I truly believe Rafa is the favourite if he gets to meet Nole in the finals. Rafa will not have any pressure, but Nole will be under huge pressure to defend the only slam he is holding now. Nole is having huge expectation on him to dethrone Rafa at the top. For that he has to win the AO to begin with to give himself any chance. The pressure will weigh on him and bring his level of play down. Rafa on the other hand will swing freely with nothing to lose and impose his game without any pressure. If he gets to the finals he will lead Nole by more than 2200 points, and he would just go for the kill in the finals to make the lead nearly to 4000.

Great times for Rafa and his fans.

Slice Tennis Says:

2:37 pm post is for James.

Slice Tennis Says:

Joker is already practising on Rod Laver Arena.

Uncle toni was also spotted hitting a few balls in Rod Laver Arena. The master plan for Rafa’s assault of the AO is in progress already.

Josh Says:

Slice Tennis
Toni and the crew appear to have planned this almost perfectly; now it will come down to execution. I have pre-purchase tickets for 20th, 23rd and 24th January and I hope to be able to see some of these guys in action (hopefully RN, RF, ND).
Should be good.

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