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Sharapova makes bid in another semifinal



Published: Fri, September 8, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Maria Sharapova will play in her seventh semifinal in the last 10 Grand Slams.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Maria Sharapova's pursuit of a second Grand Slam title keeps stalling in the semifinals.

Since bursting onto the scene at 17 by winning Wimbledon in 2004, she's accumulated millions of dollars in endorsement deals, briefly reached No. 1 in the rankings, and come oh-so-close over and over again to claiming another major trophy.

Sharapova will play in her seventh semifinal in the last 10 Grand Slam tournaments today at the U.S. Open, facing top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo. No. 2 Justine Henin-Hardenne plays No. 19 Jelena Jankovic for the other spot in the final.

Men's semifinals

Andy Roddick, the 2003 Open champion, meets 54th-ranked Mikhail Youzhny in one men's semifinal Saturday. In the other, No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko -- who came back to beat No. 14 Tommy Haas 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 Thursday -- will play two-time defending champion Roger Federer or No. 5 James Blake.

With so much attention from spectators and sponsors, one might think Sharapova would feel pressure to produce a follow-up triumph.

Not one bit, it turns out.

"It's not easy to win your first one. I was very surprised that I did at the age that I was. I did not feel that I was physically or mentally ready for it," she said.

"But it takes a lot of hard work, and I think everything has to come together: your game, how you feel physically, and maybe a little bit of luck once in a while. I've come very close the last few times, but I've got many more years to win my second one."

Practiced on adjacent courts

Sharapova and Mauresmo practiced on adjacent courts Thursday afternoon. Mauresmo briefly chatted with fans in French while autographing hats and shirts as she left. A larger crowd gathered around to watch Sharapova, and she signed about a dozen items without saying a word or looking up.

Since her out-of-nowhere breakthrough at the All England Club, Sharapova is 0-5 in major semifinals, including losses this year to Henin-Hardenne at the Australian Open and Mauresmo at Wimbledon.

Is it frustrating to keep slipping in semis?

"Honestly, there is no frustration. The only frustration there is coming off a match and realizing the little things that you could have done differently and things that were in your hands in order to win that match. But it has nothing to do with getting to the final or winning another Grand Slam," said the third-seeded Sharapova, the only semifinalist who hasn't dropped a set during the Open.

"I mean, the last thing I worry about when I go on court is trying to prove anything to anyone. I don't have anything to prove."

Two wins away

Mauresmo played 31 majors over 11 seasons without winning a major title, but she's now two wins away from her third Grand Slam title of 2006.

She's 3-0 against Sharapova, and figures that's a direct result of the mix-and-match style Mauresmo has mastered, with some power from the baseline here, and some finesse at the net there.

"The change of pace probably is something that she doesn't like," Mauresmo said, "and that's my game, that's the way I play. I'm not going to change."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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