Sharapova so ‘thrilled’

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Maria Sharapova will fight for an Olympic gold medal today after beating fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko in the women’s singles semi-finals.

In the final Sharapova will face Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, who continued her romp through the draw with a 6-1 6-2 hammering of world No 1 Victoria Azarenka.

The third seed Sharapova, who is playing in her first Games and carried Russia’s flag at the opening ceremony, continued her fine form on the Wimbledon grass this week to win 6-2 6-3 yesterday.

Sharapova has served particularly well despite windy conditions and she overpowered Kirilenko in the first set in particular.

The 14th seed, a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon last month, hit back in the second set and was a break ahead at 3-2, but Sharapova responded with a run of four games in a row, putting away a forehand on her second match point.

Williams and Azarenka had met in the semi-finals of Wimbledon last month, where the latter gave a good account of herself despite losing in straight sets, but yesterday she simply could not live with the power of Williams.

The American and Sharapova will now face each other not just for a gold medal but also to become only the second woman after Steffi Graf to win all four grand slams and the Olympic title in their career.

Sharapova said: “Obviously this is my first Olympics so I’m just thrilled to be in the final.”