Maria Sharapova beats Andrea Petkovic

Updated: April 1, 2011, 4:26 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Maria Sharapova lost her first service game when she double-faulted three times. She kept spraying her shots, which lacked their usual sting.

Then came the turnaround. After losing the first set Thursday, Sharapova won 11 consecutive games and advanced to the final at the Sony Ericsson Open by beating Andrea Petkovic 3-6, 6-0, 6-2.

Sharapova's opponent Saturday will 2009 champion Victoria Azarenka, who beat No. 3-seeded Vera Zvonareva 6-0, 6-3.

The No. 8-seeded Azarenka has hardly been dominant, splitting sets in her first three matches. But she committed only 12 unforced errors and never faced a break point against Zvonareva.

Sharapova seeks her first title since May 2010 and her first at Key Biscayne. She was the runner-up in 2005 and 2006 and missed the tournament in 2008-10 because of injuries.

"It would mean a lot," Sharapova said. "It's the biggest tournament I think after the Grand Slams. I look forward to going out there and getting it done."

The No. 21-seeded Petkovic dominated early, and the crowd began to anticipate another performance of the Petko Dance, her victory jig that became a tournament staple in the past week.

Instead, it was Sharapova celebrating at the end, fists raised as she let out a jubilant scream. Later, she took a playful jab at Petkovic.

"I sensed that she was tired -- probably a lot of the dancing that she has been doing," Sharapova said. "And I took advantage of it."

The No. 16-seeded Sharapova waged the turnaround by cutting down on the errors that plagued her early in the match. She was aggressive returning Petkovic's serve and broke seven times, and she moved well despite turning her left ankle late in her quarterfinal win.

Petkovic had 11 game points in the second set but failed to convert any as the match began to slip away.

Sharapova, a former No. 1 player who has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, began this year ranked 18th and will return to the top 10 next week.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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