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Azarenka advances to China Open final against Sharapova

Associated Press

10/6/2012 9:06:13 AM

BEIJING -- Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka beat ninth-seeded Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-2 at the China Open Saturday to set up a final against Maria Sharapova.

Sharapova cruised to a 6-4, 6-0 semifinal 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."

In men's semifinals, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France advanced to the final when Feliciano Lopez retired with a left wrist injury.

Tsonga was leading 6-1, 4-1 when the 30th-ranked Spaniard decided he could no longer continue playing. Lopez had the trainer on court after the conclusion of 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 play, maybe, one of my best tennis here.

"I didn't play like this since couple of months, and maybe a couple of years now, and that's why I think I can win the final tomorrow."

In Sunday's final, Tsonga will play the winner of Saturday's later semifinal between top-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia and unseeded Florian Mayer of Germany.

Tsonga is 2-0 in finals this year, winning the Doha and Metz, France, titles. He defended his Metz title last month.