Miami: Maria Sharapova and Andy Murray advanced with straight-set triumphs on Thursday at the WTA and ATP Miami Masters, with Russian third seed Sharapova reaching her fifth final in quest of her first title.
Sharapova dispatched Serbian 22nd seed Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-1 to book a date in Saturday’s final against the winner of a later semi-final between top seed and World No 1 Serena Williams and fourth-seeded defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska.
“It would mean so much to me,” Sharapova said of a Miami title. “The fans give me so much support here. I love this city. It was the first city I came to in this country when I was a little girl and I would love to win.”
Reigning US Open and Olympic champion Murray reached the semi-finals of the $8.5 million (Dh31.22 million) hardcourt event by ousting Croatian ninth seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, shaking off two early exchanges of breaks to find his form.
“I played more solid as the match went on,” Murray said. “Once I got back on level terms in the first set I started to do better, so many long rallies, long points, long games.”
The Scottish second seed, who won the 2009 title and lost last year’s final, will play the later quarter-final winner, French eighth seed Richard Gasquet or Czech fourth seed Tomas Berdych, for a berth in Sunday’s final.
Four-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova lost to Kim Clijsters in the 2005 Miami final, to Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2006, Victoria Azarenka in 2011 and Radwanska last year — all in straight sets.
Not only is Sharapova trying to end her Florida frustration, she is trying to become only the third woman to win both major March events, Indian Wells and Miami, in the same year.
German great Steffi Graf swept the pair in 1994 and 1996 and Clijsters did it in 2005.
“It would be nice, but winning a title, whether it’s here or Indian Wells, is a great achievement on its own,” Sharapova said. “To be able to come back from that, recover in just a few days and come back to the final here, it’s great.”
Sharapova broke Jankovic three times in each set to win her 11th match in a row, ending matters after 63 minutes by breaking the Serb with a forehand winner.
The Russian star reduced the number of double faults from 14 in a quarter-final victory over Italy’s Sara Errani to only three against Jankovic.
“I thought I needed to step it up a lot from my last match,” Sharapova said. “I had a very tough opponent and I had to play much better. I was very happy at the way I was able to focus today.” Sharapova took the first set in only 34 minutes, taking 12 of 14 points off her own first serves and 12 of 14 more off Jankovic’s second serves.
“Maria played really well. She was playing her tennis from the start,” said Jankovic, who blamed a late quarter-final match Wednesday for her poor effort.
“I wasn’t moving. I felt heavy on the court. The schedule was tough. I played three hours last night, so today I wasn’t on the top of my game, and I wasn’t playing the way I wanted to.”
Murray improved to 8-1 all-time against Cilic, winning five times in a row since the lone loss in the fourth round of the 2009 US Open.
Murray beat Cilic in four sets at last year’s US Open quarter-finals on the way to his first Grand Slam crown in their most recent prior meeting.
Cilic saved four break points in the opening game before holding, then the two exchanged breaks over the next four games before Murray held to level at 3-3 as both sprayed more errant shots than winners early.
A backhand winner lifted Murray to a break for a 5-4 lead and he won the final four points of the first set, taking it when Cilic netted a forehand volley.
Murray broke Cilic to open the second set, exchanged breaks in the seventh and eighth games, then closed out matters in the ninth game on his seventh match point by breaking when Cilic netted a forehand after one hour and 42 minutes.