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Tsonga, Djokovic to battle for China Open Title

Associated Press

10/6/2012 10:13:00 AM

BEIJING -- Top-seeded Novak Djokovic beat unseeded Florian Mayer of Germany 6-1, 6-4 on Saturday to advance to the final of the China Open.

The Serb will face France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France who led 6-1, 4-1 when Feliciano Lopez retired with a left wrist injury.

In the women's event, top-ranked Victoria Azarenka beat ninth-seeded Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-2 to set up a final against Maria Sharapova.

Djokovic steamrolled past the 29th-ranked Mayer in the first set before securing the necessary break in the seventh game of a much closer second set. He double faulted on his first match point but won when Mayer hit a forehand wide two points later.

Djokovic has so far played eight finals this season, winning three of them, including a successful defence of his Australian Open title. He leads Tsonga 7-5 in head-to-heads.

"He's a very powerful player, big serve, big forehand, and if that works he can win against anybody on any surface," Djokovic said of Tsonga.

Lopez had the trainer on court after the 30th-ranked Spaniard lost the first set.

"Even if today Feliciano was not in good shape, and even if he has a problem, I played well," Tsonga said. "This week my level goes better and better ... I didn't play like this since a couple of months, and maybe a couple of years now, and that's why I think I can win the final."

Tsonga is 2-0 in finals this year, winning the Doha and Metz, France titles.

Sharapova cruised to a 6-4, 6-0 victory over seventh-seeded Li Na of China in the other semifinal.

Azarenka, who won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, was tested in the first set by Bartoli and her unorthodox style of play, but ran ahead to a 5-1 lead in the second set.

But Bartoli refused to allow Azarenka to serve out the match in the seventh game even though the Belarussian held a match point. Bartoli broke serve on a second opportunity when Azarenka hit a forehand long.

Azarenka took advantage of her next match point on Bartoli's serve in the eighth game.

Sharapova, who will be playing for her fourth title of the year, took 68 minutes to secure the first set. The Russian finally went ahead when Li, serving at 4-5, sailed a forehand long on a second set point in the 10th game.

Li saved the first set point in the opening set with a winning volley smash at 30-40, but made the forehand error two points later to lose her serve and the set.

Sharapova needed only 33 minutes to take the second set, winning 25 of the 34 points played.

"As far as today, it was a really high quality first set and a few ups and downs," Sharapova said. "I came back and then I broke her in that last game of the (first) set.

"It was important for me to take that momentum going into the second."