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Sharapova cracks Kvitova puzzle

ESPN staff
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Maria Sharapova won the power struggle with Petra Kvitova to surge into the final of the Australian Open.

Sharapova was looking to exact revenge for her defeat in last year's Wimbledon final and she did just that, but she put her supporters through the wringer before claiming a 6-2 3-6 6-4 victory.

Kvitova made a promising start with a love hold in her opening service game, but Sharapova responded in emphatic fashion before working a break. The Russian was handed the break by Kvitova who made a complete mess of a simple smash.

Breaks were traded before Sharapova found her range from the back of the court and some blistering hitting secured her the opening set.

Kvitova showed her class by holding in style at the start of the second and the Sharapova Achilles heel reared its head. The No. 4 seed sent down two double faults to gift Kvitova a break and the Czech took full advantage, winning 11 points unanswered on her own serve to level the match.

Sharapova held at the start of the third and snapped the run of Kvitova points on serve with a blistering forehand winner. But her own serving troubles were never far from the surface and a double fault handed the Czech a break point, which was taken when a Sharapova backhand found the net.

Kvitova had Sharapova on the rack, with the Russian berating herself, but she failed to ram home her advantage as an awful service game gifted the break back.

Sharapova added another two double faults to her tally, taking it into double figures, in the seventh game of the final set but somehow she found a way of getting out of trouble. A brilliant forehand down the line on the run left Kvitova standing and a point later a lazy forehand from the Czech enabled Sharapova to move ahead.

The Russian had scoreboard pressure on her side and despite wobbling she held for 5-4 to ask the question of Kvitova. It was a question she could not fashion an answer to as her first serve deserted her and Sharapova's power hitting saw her over the winning line to keep her in the hunt for a second Australian Open title and the world No. 1 ranking.

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