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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Mauresmo fights into first final
By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Amelie Mauresmo
Mauresmo held her nerve to come through a gripping decider
World number one Amelie Mauresmo laid to rest some Wimbledon demons as she reached her first final with a brave 6-3 3-6 6-2 win over Maria Sharapova.

Mauresmo led by a set and a break in the 2004 and 2005 semi-finals and history looked set to repeat itself.

The top seed lost the second set despite having points for a 4-1 lead.

But Mauresmo established a 4-0 advantage in a gripping decider and withstood Sharapova's increasingly ferocious efforts to recover.

Mauresmo, who had lost in three straight Wimbledon semi-finals, told BBC Sport: "It was so tight in the second set and I was just thinking about getting to the final.

"I was relieved at the end I was able to come back strongly and change the momentum that was in her favour.

It's not a setback. I take every loss as a new beginning

Maria Sharapova

"I am very happy. Finally I have got the chance to play for the trophy."

The top seed will face Belgium's Justine Henin-Hardenne in Saturday's final, a repeat of the Australian Open final which Mauresmo won after her opponent retired.

That gave Mauresmo a maiden Grand Slam trophy and many hoped the breakthrough would help her shed the nerves which had blighted her career.

The Frenchwoman, who turned 27 on Wednesday, out-thought and outclassed her 19-year-old opponent in the first set of Thursday's semi-final.

While Sharapova's every shot was hit with sheer brute force, Mauresmo was mixing it up from the baseline and showing some delicate touches around the net.

But having wasted a 40-0 lead at 3-1 in the second set, the demons returned.

She double-faulted to allow Sharapova to level the second set at 3-3 and another excruciating defeat looked on the cards when the fourth seed levelled the match.

FIVE LIVE VIEW
SW

But Mauresmo left the court for a toilet break during the changeover and returned in the form that saw her sweep through the first set.

Facing defeat at 4-0 down, Sharapova stepped up the power and her familiar screech grew louder and louder.

The Russian broke back once and had a point to narrow the gap to 4-3 but Mauresmo held firm to condemn Sharapova to a fifth Grand Slam semi-final defeat since she won the Wimbledon title in 2004.

Sharapova said: "Every loss teaches me a lot. There are lots of things I have to improve to beat top players.

"But it's not a setback. I take every loss as a new beginning. I'll go back and work on the things I need to.

"I had chances. Sometimes she came up with good serve or I missed an inch or two here and there goes the match."

SEE ALSO
Gamewatch: Mauresmo v Sharapova
06 Jul 06 |  Tennis


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