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Tennis: Battling Maria into final four; AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Top seed fights back against fellow Russian.

TOP seed Maria Sharapova has battled through to the semi-finals of the Australian Open and a match-up with Kim Clijsters after overcom-ing Russian Anna Chakvetadze at Melbourne Park today.

Sharapova was expected to down the 12th seed with clinical ease in the early quarter-final on the Rod Laver Arena but was made to fight all the way for a 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 win.

Following two breaks each the first set eventually came down to a deciding tiebreaker and again errors were prevalent from both players.

Finally Sharapova was able to edge ahead and claim the tiebreaker on the back of two mistakes from Chakvetadze.

In much the same fashion as the first set, both players again succumbed to early breaks in the second.

Sharapova then broke Chakvetadze in the ninth game but faltered serving for the match, and then missed her match point chance on her compatriot's next serve.

Chakvetadze eventually relented, crashing the ball into the net in her next service game, and on Sharapova's third match point.

Clijsters had to claw her way back from a set down to overcome three-time former champion Martina Hingis 3-6 6-4 6-3.

Hitting 23 unforced errors to Hingis' seven, Clijsters crashed in the first set to the Swiss after having her service broken three times in just 35 minutes.

Casting aside her early setback, the tournament's fourth seed made a big improvement early in the second as she began to find the form that had previously eluded her.

Cantering to a 5-2 lead on the back of some strong winners and as Hingis began to falter, the Belgian looked set to seal the win in no time.

However, the costly errors that had subsided began to crop up again as Hingis pegged the score back to 5-4.

This resistance proved to be short-lived, however, as Clijsters upped the tempo, held off a break point on her own serve and then took the set.

Clearly frustrated at relinquishing her grip on the match, Hingis started the final set in emphatic fashion with a break of her opponent's opening service game.

But it was not to be her day as Clijsters bounced back with three service breaks to put an abrupt end to the comeback queen's title aspirations.

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RELIEF... Maria Sharapova celebrates her quarter-final win over Anna Chakvetadze today in Melbourne today.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jan 24, 2007
Words:390
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