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Sharapova Gets Another Chance to Close the Deal

September 08, 2006|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Decidedly European is the look of the final four women at the U.S. Open, but not the truth, at least as far as Nikolay Davydenko of Russia is concerned.

Shortly after reaching the semifinals himself Thursday, Davydenko went on a riff about why Americans don't know much about him, and spoke about his situation and that of countrywoman and third-seeded Maria Sharapova, who has lived in America most of her life.

"Passport, just passport Russian, but she's American already," he said.

Call her the virtual American. Clearly, the 19-year-old Sharapova transcends nationality, just as she has been able to do so with her commercial viability, moving into a stratosphere beyond sports.

What has proved considerably tougher is breaking the semifinal barrier at Grand Slam events. Since winning Wimbledon in 2004 as a 17-year-old, Sharapova has faltered at the semifinal hurdle in majors five times, including twice this year.

Her next attempt will come today at the Open against top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo of France, who knocked Sharapova out in the semifinals on her way to the Wimbledon title in July. Their match follows the opener between Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium and Jelena Jankovic of Serbia.

Jankovic is in the semifinals of a Slam for the first time, and she had to deal with an injury after her quarterfinal win. She hurt her back in practice Wednesday, needing treatment from a trainer during her doubles match but told a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour official that the back felt better on Thursday.

Henin-Hardenne is 1-0 against Jankovic, beating her on clay in three sets last year. Mauresmo and Sharapova's history is more extensive. Mauresmo has not lost to Sharapova in three completed matches, most recently beating her at Wimbledon, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

"I thought I had all the momentum in the world going into the third set at Wimbledon," Sharapova said. "I didn't use that to my advantage."

Still, Sharapova is the only one of the four semifinalists not to drop a set in this tournament, and her quarterfinal victim, Tatiana Golovin, who lost in two tiebreakers, praised Sharapova's mental game.

"I definitely think that separates her, how she handles mentally the tough situations," Golovin said. "Like she's really tough. And even I remember from other matches, even if you're up, she never gives up and actually even plays better when she's down."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Women's semifinalists head to head

How today's U.S. Open women's singles semifinalists have fared in previous meetings:

AMELIE MAURESMO (1) VS. MARIA SHARAPOVA (3)

Mauresmo leads, 3-0

*--* Year Tournament Surface Round Winner 2004 Tour Championships hard-indoor 1st Mauresmo, 7-5, 6-4 2005 Tour Championships hard-outdoor semis Mauresmo, 7-6 (1), 6-3 2006 Wimbledon grass-outdoor semis Mauresmo, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2

*--*

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE (2) VS. JELENA JANKOVIC (19)

Henin-Hardenne leads,1-0

*--* Year Tournament Surface Round Result 2005 Charleston clay-outdoor Of 64 Henin-Hardenne, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3

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Source: Associated Press

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