Sharapova, Mauresmo reach WTA Championship semis
MADRID, Spain -- U.S. Open champion Maria Sharapova will face French Open champ Justine Henin-Hardenne in the semifinals of the WTA Championships after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-4 on Friday in the season-ending event.
Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo reached the semis when she defeated Henin-Hardenne 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2. She will face two-time winner Kim Clijsters, who dispatched Elena Dementieva 6-4, 6-0.
The Sharapova-Henin-Hardenne clash may also decide who finishes at No. 1. Henin-Hardenne would secure the top ranking if she beats Sharapova, while the 19-year-old Russian must win her second championship in three years.
Top-ranked Mauresmo, struggling to finish the year well, was under pressure to make the semifinals. She posted her sixth win in 11 career meetings against the Belgian, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon finals this season.
"I'm very happy I hung in there today and yesterday to get to the semis, even with the bad start I had," Mauresmo said.
Henin-Hardenne and Mauresmo had never met ahead of the semifinals in any tournament since the first round of the 1999 U.S. Open. Mauresmo won that match.
A net cord in the seventh game gave Henin-Hardenne a break for 4-3 and ultimately the first set.
In the second, they broke each other early and held to force the first tiebreaker of the tournament, where Henin-Hardenne slipped on unforced errors.
Mauresmo broke twice in the third set for a 5-2 lead, then served out to hand the Belgian her first indoor loss of the season. Henin-Hardenne committed 43 unforced errors and nine double faults.
Mauresmo and Henin-Hardenne shared 2-1 records in Yellow Group, which Mauresmo topped on the head-to-head rule. Martina Hingis, the 1998 and 2000 champion, finished third at 1-2, along with Nadia Petrova.
Mauresmo, who beat Clijsters in the group stage on her way to winning the title last year, is 2-0 against Clijsters in 2006, including a win in the Diamond Games championship final in February.
"They've been very interesting," Clijsters said of her matches against Mauresmo. "I lost both of my matches against her, and they've been close. We've always had really tough battles and we enjoy playing each other so it's going to be a nice one, I think."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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