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Superb Sharapova powers into final


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Sharapova scored an emotional win to reach the Wimbledon final
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LONDON, England -- Maria Sharapova overhauled ex-champion and fifth seed Lindsay Davenport to become the second-youngest Wimbledon finalist since tennis turned professional.

The 17-year-old Russian, playing her first grand slam semifinal, hit back after the loss of the first set to beat 1999 champion Davenport 2-6 7-6 6-1.

Sharapova will now meet top seed and defending champion Serena Williams who recovered to beat Amelie Mauresmo of France 6-7 7-5 6-4.

Only Martina Hingis was a younger finalist -- when she won the title aged 16 in 1997.

Sharapova is only the second Russian woman to make the Wimbledon final after Olga Morozova lost to Chris Evert in 1974.

"This is unbelievable, I don't know how I'm in the final. This is crazy," said the Siberian-born Sharapova who left her homeland for Florida as a seven-year-old.

"This is my favorite grand slam and I'd never imagined I'd be in the final so early. I don't know what to say, I'm going to cry right now."

It was a memorable fightback by the Russian who was outplayed by the 1999 champion for more than a set.

Had rain not forced the players off Centre Court with the 28-year-old Davenport leading 2-1 in the second set, Sharapova may well have quickly capitulated.

But under bright sunshine, the 13th seed sparked her miracle comeback to move into the final.

Davenport, who was playing her 15th Grand Slam semifinal, dominated from the outset breaking her 13th seeded opponent in the first game and again in the seventh before wrapping up the first set in just 25 minutes.

The American's success was based on a consistently successful first serve and trademark swooping groundstrokes which allowed her to control the pace of the tie.

In the opener, she gave up just six points on her service. It was more of the same in the second set with Davenport, playing in her 45th career Grand Slam tournament, breaking for the early advantage.

The Russian, who showed occasional flashes of her ability with dramatic running forehands and backhands hit from the baseline, then had to fight off another break point to go 1-2 down.

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Davenport found herself at full stretch in a one-sided third set

She gained some respite when the rains sent them off after 39 minutes of play.

The tie resumed almost an hour later and, after falling 1-3 down, Sharapova eventually converted only her second break point of the match to pull the set level at 3-3 and to kick-off her fightback.

With her trademark grunt now operating at maximum volume, she held off a break point to go 6-5 before Davenport took the set to a tiebreak.

But the Russian seized her chance to level the tie on her third set point with a blistering backhand drive down the line after 80 minutes.

By this stage, Sharapova was well on top. Davenport, who was also runner-up in 2000, was broken in the opening game of the final set when she hit an untidy forehand long and then slipped 2-0 behind in the next game.

It could have been 3-0 had Sharapova converted another break point but Davenport clung on.

However, on her next service game, Davenport watched an 85mph forehand return roar past her and she knew the match was slipping away as Sharapova found herself 4-1 in front.

The teenager served to love to go 5-1 and capped her fightback and clinched victory after one hour 53 minutes when a hopelessly dispirited Davenport hit long.


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