June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Former champion Maria Sharapova defeated German wild-card Sabine Lisicki to return to the Wimbledon final.
The Russian, who took the 2004 title when she was 17, won 6-4, 6-3 on Centre Court today. She’ll play Petra Kvitova, who defeated fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka in the first semifinal, in two days.
Sharapova, the fifth seed, reached the semifinals at the French Open this month, losing to eventual champion Li Na. Sharapova, 24, has reached the final in London without dropping a set.
“It’s amazing to be back in the finals of Wimbledon, it has been awhile,” Sharapova said in a televised interview. “She played really well, and I did quite the opposite” at the start of the match. “It was tough, I had to stay focused.”
Sharapova lost her first service game, with two double faults. After saving a break-point that would have given the German a 4-0 lead, Sharapova held serve and broke back in the following game. Lisicki dropped her serve at 4-4 as she sent a ground stroke long. After Lisicki saved a set point with a drop shot, Sharapova won the first set with her first ace.
In the second set, Sharapova went up by two breaks at 3-0 when Lisicki hit a backhand into the net as rain started to fall. Sharapova dropped serve with her 10th double fault, then broke back with powerful ground strokes that forced the German into mistakes.
13 Double Faults
Leading 4-1, Sharapova held serve in the longest game of the match, fending off three break points. Serving for her second Wimbledon final at 5-2, Sharapova lost the game on her 13th double fault. She wrapped up the match in the next game when Lisicki sent a ground stroke long.
Lisicki had four double faults and no aces, compared with two aces for Sharapova.
The 21-year-old Lisicki hit the fastest serve of the women’s tournament at 124 miles per hour (199kph), as she ousted Li in the second round, saving two match points. The German, ranked 62nd in the world, had 44 aces in her first five matches.
Lisicki reached the quarterfinals two years ago and missed last year’s Wimbledon with an ankle injury that kept her away from the tour for five months. She earned a wild-card entry from the All England Club this year after winning a grass-court event in Birmingham, England, this month.
Sharapova is the world’s highest-earning female athlete, getting more than $24 million a year in endorsement income. She’s won $15.2 million in prize money in her career, 30 percent more than the three other semifinalists in this year’s tournament.
Kvitova is “a really tricky player,” Sharapova said. “She’s a lefty, she plays really good tennis.”
Kvitova became the first Czech woman to reach the finals of Wimbledon since Jana Novotna in 1998 by beating fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.
Watched by actor Robert Redford from the royal box, the No. 8-seeded Kvitova won the first set in 27 minutes, producing 13 winners and three unforced errors. The momentum shifted in the second set, when Azarenka broke as Kvitova made several unforced errors.
“I can’t say anything,” Kvitova, 21, said in a televised interview. “I don’t believe that I am in the finals of Wimbledon.”
Kvitova, who trains at the same Czech club as last year’s men’s runner-up, Tomas Berdych, broke at her first opportunity in the third set and went up 4-1 after saving two break points. She won when Azarenka double-faulted on match point.
Kvitova had 40 winners, compared with nine for her opponent. Azarenka converted one of eight break points.
“I’m so happy my serve was so good in the third set,” said Kvitova, who won 73 percent of the points when her first serve landed in. Azarenka was successful 60 percent of the time. “Grass is my favorite surface.”
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